The members of LeagueAires are all about spreading music. The women’s vocal group, sponsored by the Junior League of Minneapolis, brings the joy of music to older adults and people with special needs, performing at nursing homes, rehab centers and other venues. This year, the group celebrates its 50th anniversary, and we spoke to three members who live in the Lake Minnetonka area to learn what makes being part of the group so special.
Jan Hale, a Shorewood resident, has been part of LeagueAires for 21 years. “We aren’t trained music therapists, but we like to say we do therapy through music, because that’s how music affects all of us,” Hale says about the group.
Hale saw a listing for the LeagueAires vocal group in a Junior League newsletter. She had taken dance lessons growing up in Iowa, had sung in church and high school choirs, and was looking for a way to get involved, so she signed up for the group. “The music drew me, and then it just happened to be a group that sang in nursing homes and for adults [with special needs], and I just fell in love with that.”
Hale serves as one of two choreographers for the LeagueAires, designing the dance routines to go along with a variety of song styles. The best part of any performance? The singalong. During every show, the LeagueAires go into the audience and sing with the crowd.
Wayzata’s Norma Pierson has no formal music training, but she quickly rose up through LeagueAires. She started with the group after joining the Junior League of Minneapolis in 1974.
She started as a singer, but moved to the piano after only one month. “I can’t explain this, but I was born with music in my soul, and I can play almost anything on the piano,” Pierson says.
In 1994, she took over as the director of the group, which meant she wrote some arrangements and was in charge of selecting music. After 10 years as a director, and 30 years in the group overall, she retired from LeagueAires in 2004, but still looks back fondly. “It was a sisterhood,” Pierson says. And she stays connected: In retirement, she takes part in a book club with other former LeagueAires members.
“I had a desire to do something outside my comfort zone,” Nancy Lindahl says of her decision to join LeagueAires. “I read music, but it does not come naturally to me.”
Lindahl, who lives in Deephaven, joined the group 26 years ago, after she was elected president of the Junior League of Minneapolis. Lindahl and her husband John are active philanthropists, and are proud University of Minnesota alumni boosters.
Over the years, she has sat on numerous boards and spent time in meetings, but she never felt the direct impact of giving back. “More than anything, I was missing something,” Lindahl says. “I enjoy the strategic part of nonprofit work and love being part of a board table, but I wasn’t doing anything hands-on.”
LeagueAires has allowed her to spread joy directly and see how much joy music brings people. “There’s nothing like kneeling beside someone in a wheelchair and singing a song that reminds them of being young,” Lindahl explains.
The LeagueAires have several performances in Minnetonka in March and April. For a full schedule, visit the website here.