Concert In Long-Term Care

June 8, 2017, 3:05 PM · Yesterday I had the opportunity to perform for the residents at the Hebrew Home Of Greater Washington on the Alzheimer’s Unit.

Alexander with Alzheimers patients.

I walked down the hall towards the common area where the TV sounded as if the volume were cranked to the max. The room was warm and some of the residents were asleep or sat motionless in their wheelchairs. I still felt this sense of excitement and eagerness to play because I believed the atmosphere would change once I started playing my violin.

One of the nursing aides turned off the tv and I began tuning my violin to signal I would start the performance. As soon as I moved my bow into the A string and made a sound, one of the residents perked her head up like a sunflower receiving light and smiled.

I began with “Can't Help Falling In Love” and took time with phrasing because the carpet and dry air in the room absorbed most of the vibrations coming from my instrument. Quietly, a few of the residents sang along while others began to awake from their stillness. I performed “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” and everyone in the room sang along. By then, I felt as if I were being accompanied by a choir. I couldn’t help but smile because 20 minutes prior the room felt stuffy and lifeless.

By the end of the concert, residents were eager to stay for more music although it was time for dinner. I thanked everyone for listening and performed Edelweiss from the Sound Of Music. If you’ve followed my previous post you will know how special that song has become in my life.

A younger woman in the audience applauded and laughed with one of the residents who happened to be her mother. They had talked about the songs and sang along together during the concert. Soon after the music ended, her mother began asking where she was and who her daughter was. The mother’s transition from clarity to confusion reminded me of my grandmother’s ongoing journey with Alzheimer's. It was sad to see but I know playing familiar songs gave both mother and daughter time to laugh and sing together.

I can't wait till next week to play for more residents and families in hopes of bringing joy and smiles.

Replies

June 9, 2017 at 02:52 PM · Thank you for making a difference, and for sharing that experience with us. I appreciate the details, that you were completely "in the moment," noticing the mood of the room, the dryness of the air, exploring the acoustic space with the phrasing of the music, because it meant you were not performing for, but playing with the people in the room. To simply be, and to be in the moment, is especially precious with those with Alzheimer's. The woman who "lifted her head like a sunflower" was reminder of the power and importance of art shared from caring hands and hearts, and the ability of music to connect people. I am humbled and grateful.

June 9, 2017 at 05:42 PM · Beautiful. We need to do this all the time.

June 10, 2017 at 12:50 AM · What a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing.

June 10, 2017 at 01:39 AM · Cool story, Alexander, and thanks for doing that.

June 10, 2017 at 01:56 AM · Alexander,

Thank you for sharing the moving story. It reminded me of a wonderful documentary Alive Inside.

June 10, 2017 at 02:21 PM · I have been a Psyche nurse for over 40 yrs, I can't remember the amount of times I have told new nurses to make music for our elderly mentally impaired patients. I livens the soul, takes them down memory lane. It is one the best things if not the best thing we can to find its way into the darkness of their illness.

May you do many more of these wonderful treatments for the sufferers of this most vicious of diseases.

June 11, 2017 at 01:00 AM · Great work Alexander. My dog and I are a pet therapy team for Hospice patients, many of whom have some sort of dementia. I also see the great joy they get when they interact with my pet. Keep up the good work.

June 11, 2017 at 03:30 AM · I have played violin/fiddle tunes on and off for a while, with a family member at various senior centers. Between the 2 of us we play 4-5 instruments. We are not professionals but we practice ahead and do our best to share music in a meaningful way. It is a delight to see the smiles, the eyes becoming bright, the tapping of feet, clapping hands, and sometimes the singing that accompanies us. Once in a while someone gets up and dances! It is a gift we can share with the elderly. So I"m writing this to encourage you, whether you are a professional or an amateur, to share what you have with those who are waiting - it will bring you joy, too

June 11, 2017 at 01:16 PM · That was a beautiful story, thank you for sharing. My goal used to be to play well enough to play in the church choir, but now I see that I would also like to develop enough repertoire to play a full concert. So many places to go with the violin!

June 11, 2017 at 01:48 PM · Thank you so much for taking the time to read. Some of my favorite performances are when I share music with those in Hospice, Hospitals and Assisted-living homes. I'm getting better with my anxiety when playing in front of others in a formal setting but when it comes to sharing in Long-Term care facilities I feel alive. As I grow as a Violinist I have become more focused on my goal in helping make this world a better place through music. Maybe someday I'll make it to the Kennedy Center but my joy comes from helping recall forgotten memories for those with mentally impaired patients and their families. Or those transitioning in Hospice and Hospitals.

June 11, 2017 at 03:45 PM · Mr Strachan:

I know right where you are at. Every Sunday for the past 3 years I have been playing violin at the assisted living center across the street's church services. We play and sing together for about 30-40 minutes each week. Some of the people are slipping mentally, some are slipping physically, but I know all of them hold on to their faith Hymns are a big part of that faith. A month ago, I played violin at a funeral for on of my friends who passed on. It was an honor to play somebody out....

I used to think that mastering violin was something that I really wanted to do. In some ways I still do. For now, I will share what ability I have and make the best of it with my friends (old or young).

June 12, 2017 at 01:11 PM · Thanks much Alexander, for sharing this beautiful story! My own grandmother has Alzheimer's, and though she doesn't recognize any of us (including her own children) she is always very sweet to everybody. Last time we visited her, we sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" a dozen times --she never forgot the words!

One of my goals with my violin and with my son (already a good pianist) is for he and I to go to local hospitals and rehab centers and play duets, probably a mix of baroque classical, country gospel and honky-tonk barroom songs. I play in hopes of becoming more like you Alexander!

June 12, 2017 at 01:44 PM · Nothing wrong with the idea of Music Therapy. The Nordoff-Robbins and the Paul Robertson approaches are the best known, but there is plenty of room for others.

June 12, 2017 at 03:53 PM · How did you go about setting this up? Did you just call the facility and ask if you could come in, or did they request you? I've done some paid amateur quartet gigs at assisted living facilities, but I'd like to come in every once and a while to play for the residents for free since they rarely have any musicians.

June 12, 2017 at 04:28 PM · Bravo, Alexander! You have inspired me, as well as many others! Keep up the great work!

June 12, 2017 at 05:27 PM · Evan,

I googled Nursing Homes and Assisted-Living Facilities in Montgomery County and picked a day to visit each one. I bought orange folders in which contained my business card, flyer, and sample program from previous concerts at nursing homes. At each facility, I would go to front desk and ask if they could leave the folder in the mailbox or office of the activities coordinator and I found that after a few days I would receive emails or phone calls asking when I could play and what I charged.

Sometimes I would follow up the initial visit with a phone call.

June 12, 2017 at 09:26 PM · Alexander,

Thanks for sharing. Your story gave me an idea for some of the young musicians in the LYSO as a form of community outreach. A simple collection of favorite, easy-to-sing songs played by a small group of young musicians would be good for them as well as good for the community.

June 13, 2017 at 03:33 AM · If anyone would like a list of songs I use I am more than happy to email them!

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