We’re honored to have so many passionate, hard-working, and dedicated employees at The Ambassador. Whether caring for our property, or on the front lines nurturing our residents — their continued commitment is something we cherish and feel inspired to share with you, our community.
Introducing Eric Lebowitz — our Kindred Music Therapy Director
Eric shares his very personal journey into Music Therapy and his goals and special experiences at The Ambassador in his own words.
I attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in songwriting. Shortly after graduation I moved back to New York and found a job as a tour manager and guitar technician with renowned guitarist Jeff Golub, most well known for his time with Rod Stewart as Rod’s lead guitarist, before Jeff went to perform solo. Jeff had suddenly and unexpectedly lost his sight and needed assistance while he was on tours, which is why I was hired. As time went on it was discovered that Jeff’s blindness was due to a terminal neurodegenerative disease known as “progressive supranuclear palsy.” Upon this discovery, Jeff canceled his tours. We had grown close during our work together so I stayed on as his personal assistant and remembering what I had heard about the benefits of music therapy and decided that would be the best way I could help him. I started volunteering at the Lighthouse Guild for the Blind and applied and was accepted to the NYU music therapy master’s program. Jeff and I continued to work together, finding joy in music in the face of the end of life.
On New Year’s Day 2015, Jeff passed away. I continued my studies and still continue my work with Jeff’s memory in my heart. Since then I have received my Master’s Degree, become a board-certified music therapist, been certified as a neurological music therapist and with the help and support of The Ambassador, have been licensed by the state of New York as a creative arts therapist. While in NYU, I started work at the Ambassador, running music therapy inspired groups twice a week. I truly enjoyed the work with the residents and all the people working here. The Ambassador is a very special facility. There is a sense of peacefulness, the building being tucked away in the trees, with beavers, cranes and other birds, sharing the space. As an avid naturist, I believe that any sense of being in nature is extremely valuable, to both residents, family, and staff. The facility is as beautiful as its natural surrounding and it feels like home. Also having grown up in Westchester, I felt as if I was giving back to my community.
After graduating from NYU, I worked with The Ambassador COO, Joe Lopuzzo, to create a full-time music therapy position in June of 2016. I was gifted the opportunity to start the Music Therapy program. Since then I have worked on the Kindred memory care unit, individually with the residents, and created over 10 specialized music therapy groups tailored to meet the needs of all the residents, and implemented and maintain the Music and Memory program, in which the Ambassador is certified.
Individually I work with residents in a variety of ways. I have worked with residents to create resident performances. One resident has written and performed her own song, another practicing and performing dance routines to his favorite music. Notably, the resident who wrote her own song was able to remember words and lyrics to a song created about her husband while suffering a decline in short-term memory abilities. It’s amazing, music finds a way into the heart and can always be recalled. Special things happen in individual music therapy sessions. I have witnessed people with aphasia and dementia sing full sentences, residents seemingly unresponsive to environmental stimulus finish lyrics to a favorite song, and so many smiles, laughs and moments of joy in the music. In groups, to provide a few examples; we have a sing-along groups, engaging residents to follow and maintain reading and attention abilities, implemented in both the memory care unit and independent living quarters (having become a big hit with many residents there); we have a energizing music group which focuses on invigorating the residents with high energy music, facilitating sense of control through choosing songs and instruments, and environmental awareness in reacting to music dynamics (responding to musical cues such as slowing down, speeding up, playing louder, playing softer, etc); we have a music and meditation group focused on creating a sense of peace, relaxation, and self-appreciation; and many more! All of the individual work and group work provides a means of enhancing the resident’s quality of life through self-improvement, self-accomplishment, and experiencing personal connections and relationships, and most important - moments of joy.
Seeing a resident experience joy keeps me inspired and motivated to continue providing quality music therapy and continue to learn to improved my skills as music therapist and creative arts therapist. The music therapy program at The Ambassador has been a great success and continues to improve, adapt and change. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to develop the program at the best Assisted Living Facility in Westchester. I know that Music Therapy is a necessity for those with dementia. It is one of, if not the best way to engage, communicate and form relationships with these adults, who have and can continue to live rich, full, joyous and meaningful lives.
Stay tuned for more profiles of our cherished team members!