Outstanding Group – The Aphasia Choir of Vermont
"The choir members are truly amazing, and they inspire me with their positive attitudes, good humor, and tenacity. I can't think of a better way to honor them!” – Karen McFeeters Leary, Director
Making inspiring music together is the Aphasia Choir of Vermont’s goal. While helping its members express themselves more freely through singing, the group also educates the community about communication disabilities and provides a supportive community for stroke survivors with aphasia.
Karen McFeeters Leary, a retired speech-language pathologist and singer/songwriter, started the group and has directed it for six years, growing it from 22 members to more than 50. The first aphasia choir in Vermont, the group includes stroke and traumatic brain injury survivors, family members, caregivers, physical therapy assistants, speech-language pathologists and University of Vermont students studying communication sciences. They rehearse for months during the spring to prepare for their annual performance in June for National Aphasia Awareness Month, and they also take time to highlight members’ victories and support each other.
The concert attracts more and more people every year, with the 2019 performance entertaining nearly 600 attendees. The music ranges from Broadway hits to Motown classics, including pieces where members play instruments such as kazoos and a one-hand adapted guitar. Choir members also educate the audience about aphasia, including tips for communicating with someone who has aphasia.
The Aphasia Choir of Vermont’s members may struggle with aphasia, but when they make music together, they communicate in a beautiful and inspiring way.