Dimensions in Sound and The Studio Orchestra

Bringing Big Sounds to Seniors

DISSO Dimensions in Sound performing

For 45 years, Dimensions in Sound has played its big-band repertoire for the greater Madison community. Its sister group the Studio Orchestra has performed light classical numbers for 43 years. The two performing groups make up the Madison-area nonprofit named DISSO for their combined initials.

A Bicentennial Project That Took on a Life of its Own

In Madison’s Hill Farms neighborhood, the U.S. 1976 Bicentennial sparked Van Hise Middle School (now Hamilton) music teacher Lonnie Nofzinger to organize a marching band for the neighborhood’s annual 4th of July parade. The group, many of them parents of Nofzinger’s students, enjoyed the experience so much, they agreed to continue. Soon Nofzinger and his musicians wanted to do more than just play together. They wanted to perform.

After providing music for several teachers’ events at the middle school, the group expanded its reach. Nofzinger reached out to local senior centers and nursing homes, and before long the group was sharing music with those who otherwise couldn’t get out to musical events.

The Satisfaction of Swinging for Seniors

While the groups today perform at a range of events and facilities, the Dimensions in Sound members take particular pleasure in performing at senior living facilities. “It didn’t take long for us to see how much they loved it,” said Ann Weber, tenor sax, the sole remaining original member still playing in Dimensions in Sound. “After we played, they would share their stories about what a particular tune meant to them.”

Band members have seen listless residents come to life when the music reaches them, reinforcing the impact music can have on mood and overall health for older people.

Bringing the Music Back

Then came COVID-19. When performing in residential facilities became impossible due to pandemic restrictions, DISSO got creative. The organization put together recordings of past performances, with some conversational interludes resembling the in-person discussions, and distributed them on flash drives to places where they would ordinarily perform. The content could be used for small socially distanced gatherings or one-on-one with residents. “We got a nice response to that,” Weber said.

DISSO continues to adjust to a changing world. They are considering adding some smaller performance groups (since some facilities can’t accommodate the 17-member orchestra and 35-member band) and offering more midday, midweek concerts. And, because “the times they are a-changin’” even in senior housing, Dimensions in Sound has added some ‘60s rock to their repertoire. “But we’ll always play the Beer Barrel Polka,” Weber concluded.


A Gift to Keep the Music Playing

While the musicians in both Dimensions in Sound and The Studio Orchestra are volunteers, DISSO isn’t free to operate. Even at the start, the groups faced expenses, including music and arrangements for the pieces they performed. In the early years, Nofzinger, who passed away in 2005, shouldered most of DISSO’s expenses himself. Today, donations and grants — including one from MCF — help meet expenses.

DISSO also is supported by an endowment fund held at MCF. A generous donor recently established the fund using a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) directly from his individual retirement account (IRA).

QCDs allow donors who don’t need their IRA distributions to use those funds to support an organization they care about. If you’d like to learn more about how a QCD works, give us a call.


Make a gift to the Lonnie Nofzinger Endowment supporting Dimensions in Sound & The Studio Orchestra.

You can learn more about DISSO and where they are playing, when the pandemic allows, at http://disso.org.

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