Performing for Those Who Reside in Care Homes
The motivation for most of us who perform is not always to ‘receive’, because you never know what your audience will be like. Most performers love the music and love to play and sing. That is motivation enough. There is one audience I have always ‘received’ from and that is the home-bound audience who do not get many opportunities to hear live music. This population usually includes seniors and younger people who are handicapped and cannot freely move about.
They love the down-home, lively acoustic music that I have always played – bluegrass, country, folk, gospel. One senior told us once that our music ‘takes us out of here for a while’. Another said, in the form of a poem, ‘Although we are old and our fling has been flung, that kind of music makes us feel young’. Those with dementia are some of our favorite audiences because they are so uninhibited. They clap, whoop and holler! Even when playing for those who find it hard to express themselves, I will see a finger move or a toe tap.
When I recently thanked a world-class banjo picker, Warren Kennison, Jr., who participates in the outreaches that we do, he said,“It is a good feeling.” It is a good feeling for the musicians, but how much more for the audience. Marilyn, from Life Care in Evergreen, Colorado recently told me:
“I just wanted to thank you so much for coming over. We love having you. It’s such a big and wonderful and special event. And I wanted to share with you that at a care conference last week one of our rehab patients who loves gospel music said, ‘Oh, I just loved that. That’s the most cheerful I’ve felt in my time here so far’. You guys are wonderful and I thank you so much.”
I would like to encourage you and quickly give you the steps to start this type of outreach in your area. It is not hard and the benefits are great.
- Find a group of interested pickers through a music association, a jam, or just some of your friends. Once you start, it will spread by word of mouth and others will join you. An email list is easiest, but for those who don’t have email, be sure and get their phone number to let them know about the opportunities. Find out what time is best for them. The homes are usually open to times, but some of the pickers cannot come during the day. We actually do a morning and an evening outreach so that all the musicians who would like to have a chance get involved. We open it to all ages and abilities. We have participants from 1 ½ (my grandson) to musicians in their 80’s. Kids who are home schooled can join in during the day. Contact area home school groups for kids who want to perform.
- When you know you have a group of at least three who are reliable, call nursing homes or other care centers in your area and offer to play (for free) for the residents. When you call, ask for the ‘activity director’ or ‘enrichment coordinator’. They are very busy and the best time to get them is 8:30 – 9:30 in the morning. If you leave a message, tell them what you would like to do. Be specific. ‘We play bluegrass gospel music and have a guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin and bass in our group. We would like to play for your residents around 10 am’.
- Try to be consistent. Decide on a day ahead of time that would work for your group and see if that works for the home. During the day we have four homes that we rotate through the year on the first Monday of the month. We also play in the evening and that is more sporadic. As long as you can keep in touch with your group, it will work.
- During the performance, our group does a round robin so that everyone has a turn. You can pick a song to sing or play, or have someone else sing. You can also pass. You may have shy participants who would just like to play in the background. The important thing is not to let any one person take over and control all the songs. Your performers will keep coming back to help out if they feel they are contributing.
- We do not carry a public announcement system. If the home happens to have one and it is easy to use, we will use a microphone for vocals. Otherwise, we’re usually loud enough.
- To make it a fun outreach for the musicians we usually go to lunch in the area of the home after we play the morning shows.
- If you need more help starting an outreach, email me – firstname.lastname@example.org
For those of you who will be in Arizona this winter, put this fun, free festival on your calendar:
Goldfield GospelGrass, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Goldfield Ghost Town on US 88, a few miles north of Apache Junction, AZ. Music from 10 am – 5 pm on 2 stages. Bring lawn chairs if you like. Concessions on site at the restaurants at the ghost town. Featuring: Brush Arbor Revival, Cabin John, Cisco & the Racecars, Greenwood Sidee, Jam Pak Blues ‘N’ Grass Neighborhood , Jason Donne & the Open Graves, Karmann & Kompany, Nehemiah, Red Rock Crossing, 2nd Time Around.