When Lauren Koff, a psychology major, was a senior in college, her friend Cristina Rodriguez came to her with an idea. Rodriguez had been interning at a hospital years earlier and dreamed of bringing patients to a room full of musical instruments where they could challenge themselves and learn how to play.
The two started by working with dementia patients at a local Adult Day Center. Seeing the transformative impact their program had on the patients’ lives, they decided to start a 501c(3), even as they worked to finish their college degrees.
The two developed a color-coded system by which they teach patients the basics of music theory as well as how to play short songs on the guitar and keyboard. They hired a team of professional musicians who engage patients on a social, cognitive, physical, and creative level. They even incorporate visual art if requested by the facility.
During an epic 3-hour meeting, SCORE mentor John Hosler helped Koff and Rodriguez understand the ins and outs of founding a 501c(3) organization. Koff says “If he hadn’t been there for us, we could have been in some real legal messes as we started growing.”
Koff is now back in school getting an MBA. Her biggest goal, she says, is to see a Mind&Melody program in every medical facility around the world.
Koff and Rodriguez now recruited South Florida business leader Jim Ryan to be a founding board member of their organization and have been featured by local magazines and radio stations, including the Miami Herald.
After two years of working for free, Koff and Rodriguez are now finally paid employees of Mind&Melody. They have also hired 35 professional musicians and about 150 volunteers.