Residents at Sunrise at East 56th take in a performance during the opening reception for the Sunrise and Juilliard collaboration. (Photo courtesy of Sunrise at East 56th.)

The Juilliard School is a brand name when it comes to the performing arts. Founded in 1905, it counts prodigious talents such as Miles Davis, Robin Williams and Yo-Yo Ma as alumni. Now it is bringing its curriculum to senior living through the Juilliard Extension School.

“[The idea] came to me during the pandemic. It was something we all experienced so many different ways,” Juilliard Extension School Dean John-Morgan Bush said.

During the pandemic, the Extension division went fully online, he said. “It was during that time that I really began to understand the value of what we offer, and how these communities, classes and this content can really uplift people during a really difficult time.”

Beginning in June, Sunrise at East 56th in Manhattan started offering its residents 12-week Juilliard Extension courses ranging from dance and music to drama. In addition to live classes onsite at the high-rise, residents also will be able to attend Juilliard shows on the school’s campus in Lincoln Center or streaming live and on-demand from the comfort of their apartments. According to Sunrise at East 56th General Manager Tom Cana, this “elevated” programming connects residents with unique opportunities only available in their city. 

“I think this is a great example of elevated programming available to our residents and not just what you would find in standard senior living,” he said. “The residents have really expressed great interest in having programming tied to the city; to have this specialized exclusive relationship with an institution so respected and famous as Juilliard shows our residents how important programming is to us as it is for them.” 

The program also has therapeutic benefits. Being a musician himself, Bush noted that the arts can provide both fellowship and introspection. This capability is especially imperative given the social isolation that occurred for many older adults during the pandemic and still endures for some.  

“When we envisioned this program, I really was insistent that it would be a community event in the Sunrise East 56th community, because I want people to come together. I wanted people to say to their next-door neighbor or friend, ‘Are you going to the extension class on Thursday? Let’s sit together,’” Bush said. “You can offer up something the brain can connect to about a time or place or an experience in your life. That’s why some of the music and things that we are doing here in the course of a semester are well-known, because I want them to connect to things that may have happened in their own lives in their past.”

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