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University of Iowa News Release

Aug. 17, 2006

Coffman Awarded Grant To Examine Active Music Making Among Older Adults

Don Coffman, UI professor of music education, was awarded a $56,966 grant from the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) to study how active music making, specifically in New Horizons International Music Association (NHIMA) bands, affects the social and physical well-being of older adults.

New Horizons Music programs provide music-making opportunities for adults, including those with no musical experience at all and also those who were active in school music programs but have been inactive for a long period of time. Coffman is the director of the Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center New Horizons Band.

Coffman received the grant for the first year of a three-year study and is optimistic that he will receive additional funding from NAMM after the results of the first year are available.

The study will examine the impact of active music making on those participating in NHIMA bands and orchestras, based on self-reported indicators of general health, mental health, functional health, social functioning and sense of well-being in older adults.

Coffman said he became interested in this field of research because of his work with the Iowa City New Horizons Band.

"With my work with the band, I have observed that these people are having a wonderful time, and they enjoy it," he said. "They overcome personal setbacks -- they have a hip replacement or a heart attack or cancer - and they come back to the band. Band means a lot to them and they just don't give up. I would like to verify those things through this study."

This month, Coffman will launch a three-year longitudinal study that will include a national survey and three phases of personal interviews. In the national survey, data will be collected from 4,000 to 5,000 adults participating in NHIMA bands and orchestras and 120 NHIMA directors. The personal interview portion of the research will include face-to-face administered questionnaires with approximately 150 NHIMA musicians and 150 non-musicians from different locations in the United States.

The NHIMA members and non-musicians will be assessed on general health, emotional health, cognitive function, social functioning and socio-demographic variables.

"We need more of this kind of research to show that these activities are beneficial," Coffman said. "The number of older adults is increasing and we are living longer and more actively than in previous decades. With people living as long as they are now, we need to know what contributes to the quality of life."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Stephen J. Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,; Writer: Kelli Andresen