Tremble Clefs grew from a Parkinson’s support group in Scottsdale Arizona in 1994. Karen Hesley, a speech pathologist at Scottsdale Memorial Hospital, had just finished a specialized training in Lee Silverman Voice Treatment. Frank Halpin, leader of the Parkinson’s support group, invited her to speak.
Members were already singing around the piano after their programs. Sue Cardew played the piano. Sue had early onset Parkinson’s disease. When Karen Hesley met with the group, together they explored the idea of starting a singing group for people with Parkinson’s and thus Tremble Clefs was formed.
Founding members included Frank Halpin, Ned Brooks, Vince and Faith Blenkle, Bob Jackson, Helen Williams, George and Ethel Goldstein, Warren and Janet Meter, Rosemary Aubin, and Sue Cardew, the accompanist who devotedly played for the group for years. Early on Bill and Delores Wheelock joined and in Bill the group gained an experienced conductor. Ned Brooks contributed the name “The Tremble Clefs.”
In 2001 Karen Hesley moved to California and the Tremble Clefs, meeting in Scottsdale’s Granite Reef Senior Center, continued on with a new director. Karen quickly established a Tremble Clefs in San Diego, the first of several in Southern California.
In Arizona in 2002, Kellie Walker assumed directorship of Tremble Clefs. A music therapist, her husband had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This added to Kellie’s insight into the impact of Parkinson’s on a person and on the family.
In 2008, the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center contacted Ms. Lee to establish a music therapy group for people with Parkinson’s in Sun City. Sun Joo Lee had just graduated from Arizona State University with two Master’s degrees, one in Vocal Performance and one in Music Therapy. March 5, 2008, under her direction, the West Side Tremble Clefs held their first meeting in the Shepherd of the Desert Lutheran Church, Sun City. In November 2008, the Original Tremble Clefs invited Ms. Lee to become their Music Director.
Collaborating, Tremble Clefs in the Southwest have held three workshops. Participants gathered from different groups to sing, learn vocal strategies, exchange information and ideas and learn from experts as well as from each other. The most recent workshop was in Phoenix in May 2014. The two Arizona Tremble Clefs cosponsored a “Music Therapy Retreat” which had 152 in attendance.
In 2018 a milestone was reached as the two choral groups incorporated as “Tremble Clefs Arizona” to be managed by its Board of Directors. In May 2018, the organization was granted non-profit status by the IRS.
Tremble Clefs continues to grow. In 2019, thanks to the work of Kirk Hall of the West Side group, Tremble Clefs Arizona received a community grant from the Parkinson’s Foundation for the purpose of starting two new Tremble Clefs groups in Maricopa County. The North West Tremble Clefs meets in Sun City West. The South East Tremble Clefs had their first meeting on Nov. 7, 2019. That group meets in Sun Lakes.
The story of Tremble Clefs continues as people with Parkinson’s find singing provides a weapon against this disabling disease. Now there are over fifteen Tremble Clefs groups located across the country.
The above photo is of Karen Hesley and members who started Tremble Clefs.
In 2019, Tremble Clefs Arizona received a community grant from the Parkinson's Foundation. The funds of the grant are earmarked for the establishment of two new Tremble Clefs in Maricopa County