Two-time Grammy Award-winning singer Sylvia McNair and world-renowned pianist Kevin Cole will perform music from the Great American Songbook in benefit concerts on Feb. 6 at Presbyterian Homes’ Lake Forest Place retirement community and Feb. 7 at Westminster Place retirement community in Evanston.

The concerts benefit the new Songs By Heart Foundation, which provides communication and connection to people with memory loss through the language and joy of music.

“My own successful experience in connecting with a family member with advanced stage Alzheimer’s disease through music led me to establish the Songs By Heart Foundation,” says Nancy Gustafson, founder and executive director.

“We want to offer the same opportunity for engagement and improved quality of life to others with memory loss.” A lifelong resident of Evanston, Ms. Gustafson is an internationally acclaimed opera singer and artist-in-residence at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music.  

Ms. Gustafson continued, “The Songs By Heart Foundation is seeking funding for a 12-week pilot program to develop a template for providing daily, interactive, live vocal performance with piano accompaniment for people with memory loss.”

The pilot program will help establish best practices in its approach to reaching people with dementia in the present moment and enhancing their engagement with others. A music therapist and an expert in memory care will mentor the performers in connecting with older adults with dementia. Established assessment tools will measure the program’s impact on engagement and quality of life.

The Feb. 6 concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. at Lake Forest Place, 1100 Pembridge Drive, Lake Forest. The Feb. 7 concert will be at 7:30 p.m. in Elliott Chapel at Westminster Place, 3131 Simpson St. Tickets are available at or 513-503-8917.