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Ever Gig at a Senior Living Facility?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by nojazzhere, Apr 11, 2021.

  1. srblue5

    srblue5 Tele-Holic

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    In my university days, I used to perform at an senior living facility with a group of fellow student musicians. We used to play individually, like at a recital, but sometimes we accompanied each other or just jammed. The seniors in the audience and their family members used to love singing along to the songs they recognized but also enjoyed the songs they didn't know. Sometimes I tested out instrumental pieces I was in the midst of composing. It was overall a very fun and meaningful experience. I wish I could still do something like that.

    The funniest, however, was when a new student joined us and tried singing contemporary emo songs in an atonal way. At one point, he implored the rather confused audience members to sing along. The admin person of our volunteer group had a word with him in private after that and he never joined us again. :lol:
     
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  2. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Doctor of Teleocity

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    I've written about this before, but it bears repeating. MANY younger people think because seniors are hard of hearing, they have to "turn it up".....both in talking and with music. WRONG!!!!!! In most cases, the seniors can still "hear", they just can't "understand". It's the high frequency hearing loss that makes understanding speech so difficult. Usually, even low-volume music is easily heard and enjoyed.....in fact, playing too loud can create an "overload", and, if they're already wearing hearing aids, it can actually cause pain.
    Keep your volume on the "low" side, and it will be greatly appreciated. ;)
    BTW....one of the most enjoyed group of performers at my mom's facility were three young girls who were harp students, of varying levels of ability. If you know harps, they are relatively "quiet" instruments, and an audience has to be fairly quiet to hear well. The senior residents were simply mesmerized by the harpists.....so much so that they were invited back another time. All of this was before, well, you know what......but I hope they'll come back again.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2021
  3. mrbdxmpl

    mrbdxmpl Tele-Holic

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    People, TDPRI IS a senior living facility...
     
  4. Old Plank

    Old Plank Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

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    Yes, had a good one with a full house including dementia patients, we did a duo 2-guitar all-instrumental hour-long set including originals, standards, old pop radio hits, surf, TV theme songs; they were all very appreciative and we were psyched to do it again, and then that Thing hit and we haven't been back yet.
     
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  5. 39martind18

    39martind18 Friend of Leo's

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    Google search for them in your area, call and ask for Activities Director. You may be asked to submit some form of info (playing style, repertoire. etc.). Understand that a number of senior living facilities are not open to outside visitors/ entertainers due to the current situation, but that seems to be opening up here in the Houston area. I've been averaging 1-2 AL gigs a month over the last 7-8 months, having to sing through a mask and showing a current negative test. As the residents get vaccinated (and me as well), the masked singing has been less, but I'm always prepared to perform masked. This month there are six shows booked, so there is some movement toward getting back to normal, albeit slowly. In the current situation, caution is the best practice.
     
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  6. 39martind18

    39martind18 Friend of Leo's

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    One other thought: here in Houston, most of the larger facilities have some budget for entertainment, but there are a number of smaller facilities that have no budget for live music that would probably love to have a volunteer show for their residents.
     
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  7. burtonfan

    burtonfan Tele-Afflicted

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    I actually have! I played bass in a pseudo Dixieland quartet back in '94 or '95. I was hired to play tuba, as that was my major in college, but I no longer had access to the university's instrument and I couldn't afford my own. As I am also a guitar player, I showed up with my bass guitar and did the gig.

    Not exactly authentic, but the residents seemed to enjoy it.
     
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  8. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    First of all, Gil, that was a great comic strip!

    Secondly, props to all y'all for doing these gigs.

    And Gil, as you may remember, I've posted a number of times about gigging at seniors facilities. I've been doing such gigs consistently for a long time.

    About a decade ago a friend named Ed invited me to join him singing at Mt. Carmel retirement community. I came to sit in one time, and from that day on, it was a weekly commitment. Ed's a character, and so he dubbed our duo Mr. Ed & Father Time. :rolleyes:

    Later, Ed moved into a retirement community across town called Garden Estates. (Ed's about a dozen years older than me, but he doesn't take care of himself, so uncontrolled diabetes, cardiac events, impaired vision necessitated the move.) I kept the Mt. Carmel gig going, and Ed asked me to come to GE to do our Mr. Ed & Father Time duo there. And so every Thursday for the past 8 years or so (except for the lockdown hiatus), I play at GE.

    Then several years ago Mt. Carmel closed its doors. The residents there made their way to other care facilities in the area, and they all wanted me to come to where they would be living. I wrote letters to five different facilities, explaining the situation and offering my services.

    (And by offering, I mean as a volunteer. I've never charged any seniors facility for what I do. Well, actually, I offered to do a monthly gig for one hour or 1-1/2 hours at most, and in the afternoons. I explained I booked paying gigs in the evening and on weekends, and if they ever wanted me for a special event in one of those time frames, my usual rates would apply. I've done two or three paid gigs under those conditions.)

    Three of the five facilities I wrote to replied. So two weekly gigs became five gigs, with the additional three being monthlies. Then activity directors I came to know took positions at different facilities, and asked me to come. That added two more facilities done monthly.

    Then a resident formerly at Mt. Carmel had a fall and broke her ankle. She was moved to another type of facility (assisted living/nursing), and I went to visit her and arranged to play for her and the other residents there, which I did weekly until she passed. Well, actually, that gig continued even after she passed.

    So I wound up playing for seniors either weekly or monthly at eight different facilities, and it continued that way until the enforced lockdowns in March of 2020. Then suddenly everything stopped. Well, one restaurant in a nearby coastal town booked me to play on their marina's patio. I did that one gig probably half a dozen times from May-December. But the gigs for seniors shut down completely.

    Then, the first week of this new year, Garden Estates called me back. For several weeks, weather permitting, I played for them outdoors, and after a few weeks, they had me come back in to the MPR (multipurpose room), and I've been doing it ever since.

    For a retired guy like me, this is just ideal. As others have already mentioned, there are benefits to this: short gigs, minimal gear required, in and out with plenty of day left for other gigs or whatever.

    Like @brookdalebill said, I know the requisite repertoire very well. My mother is still living, and less than a month from turning 89. Dad died young of cancer, but he also was born in 1932. Dad played guitar and sang, and Mom sang in a trio before she ever met my Dad in college. So I grew up hearing their music, and play a lot of it myself, especially for these venues.

    And as @1955 said, the people are the greatest. They truly appreciate being remembered, and they are a good audience. So many even from my own generation on down to today treat live music like it's something to have going while you're having a conversation or playing on your phone. For them, a live musician is just a flesh-covered radio.

    But these octogenarians and nonagenarians pay attention to, appreciate and even applaud your efforts, all the more so when you're playing their music. I play what I know they like, and I take requests. If they request something I don't know, I'll learn it for a future gig. And I've done this for long enough that nowadays I can fill an hour and a half time slot (as I do with GE every Thursday), with requests. I never even bother with a set list.
     
  9. Chester P Squier

    Chester P Squier Tele-Holic

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    I've performed music for senior living facilities on numerous occasions. But playing the guitar and doing rock tunes, only three times.

    As far as the latter goes, a semi-long story.

    On Christmas Day 1998, my two brothers and our families got together, as we did every Christmas. One of my brothers, a staunch Beatlemaniac, got out a Gretsch Country Gentleman, a Rick 360-12 old style, and a Hofner Viol bass, and the three of us went off to another room and jammed on Beatle songs while the rest of the family simply visited. This became an annual occurrence.

    In 2016, Beatlemaniac brother's daughter was working at a senior living facility. She got the bright idea that we would play a gig there for the residents. (For free.)

    We did that, despite the fact that the three of us live in different towns. There was not a lot of rehearsal time, so we used music stands with the words of the songs on them. The gig went okay. I figured the residents had had their afternoon medications.

    We did that twice that year.

    We came back in 2018, but this time there were no music stands. We had to look our audience members in the eye. Learned something from that gig. They came alive. Compared to 2016, it was the Beatles at Shea Stadium.

    What I learned was, don't bury your head in a music stand. Look them in the eye. You can connect with them much better.

    I also sing in a senior (55ish and up) choir at our church. Until March 2020 we were singing at a lot of senior living centers. Some of the residents respond better than others. I told our music director that I think we should learn to sing at least one song without having to look at our music. He said "I think we should learn two or three from memory."

    Beatlemaniac brother passed away in 2019, so we haven't done the senior living center gig since 2018.
     
  10. Stringbanger

    Stringbanger Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I played once at an Alzheimer’s facility in 2018 for my brother-in-law. I played in his room and it was tough for me.

    First of all, George was on his last leg. He couldn’t speak anymore, and basically just laid in bed with his eyes closed. Second of all, I had to play rather quietly,
    as to not disturb other patients. That was particularly hard for me, because I have a booming voice and an aggressive acoustic approach.

    George was responsive to my music though. My wife and I observed him trying to snap his fingers.

    That was October of 2018. He passed in early January of 2019. The man was only 61.
     
  11. StrangerNY

    StrangerNY Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    I did one last Fall, under odd circumstances.

    I play in an on-again off-again Beatles show, and we usually do a couple of gigs a year at one of the more popular venues out here. We got a call from a senior living facility - the facility had lost a few residents to Covid, and they wanted to know if we could do a show to try and cheer the residents up a little.

    The building was U-shaped with a courtyard in the middle, so we set up in the courtyard, and the residents stayed inside the building and watched us through the windows.

    It was odd having pretty much no interaction with the audience, but we got a really nice letter from the administrator saying that the people really enjoyed the show.

    - D
     
  12. Stubee

    Stubee Doctor of Teleocity Gold Supporter

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    Yep, I played solo and duo at a place my wife managed, and solo many times at the assisted living place my Dad was in for years. They loved it. I did it gratis but know you can actually get paid pretty well for it around here.
     
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  13. Beachbum

    Beachbum Friend of Leo's

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    Sorry if I wasn't clear about that. I was referring to management. To be frank I don't hold a very high opinion of these elderly care facilities in general. Even the middle class and government assisted ones charge healthy fees and in large part don't exactly have stellar reputations. I'm 73 and I swear I'll fall out of bed and die alone on the floor before they get me into one of those places.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2021
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  14. Sequimite

    Sequimite Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

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    I did one around 1990. Took my 1920s Duplex drum kit. Very appreciative audience.
     
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  15. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Doctor of Teleocity

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    I have to chime in and agree 100%. I won't claim to have a lot of experience with senior facilities, but the one my mother is in is one of the "higher-end" places. She's been there nearly three years. I've come to realize the place spends more money on the landscaping out front, (to appeal to potential residents) than out back, where current residents spend time. When we first looked into them, they bragged about the quality and variety of their dining menu. That has all declined over three years, to the point that I usually have to take an evening meal to my mom because she can't eat what they're serving that day. In three years, there's been a five or six times turnover in directors, meaning SOMETHING is causing people to leave after a short time. This facility is owned and operated by a huge senior-living corporation (Arbor) and "making money" seems to be their only focus. (I would think profits and excellent care are not mutually exclusive)
    BTW.....this place is not cheap, at about $3500 a month for a single resident....more for couples. I've decided this type of operation is like finding a goldmine in your backyard.
     
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  16. buster poser

    buster poser Friend of Leo's Platinum Supporter

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    Many times as a kid in choirs and in the vox ensemble where I played guitar. Worked in a nursing home for three years too and always stopped to watch any time a musician was in. No surprise, music is magic for older people too.
     
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  17. Cosmic Cowboy

    Cosmic Cowboy Tele-Meister

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    I am pretty involved in my church and we have done some outreach with the music ministry at some senior living facilities. Acoustic only, but (pre-covid) it was something we did about 3 or 4 times a year.

    It was rewarding. These folks really take an interest in anyone who is willing to come and spend time to give them something nice that takes away from the monotony of living in a facility. Good on you.
     
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  18. dlew919

    dlew919 Doctor of Teleocity

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    I have.
    The trick is to get the set list right. The ages of the residents means rock and roll, Beatles, light jazz, 60s pop.
    I finished on bad bad Leroy brown. Brought the house down every time.
     
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  19. Telekarster

    Telekarster Tele-Afflicted

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    Dude.... one of the BEST gigs I ever did was at an assisted living facility, 5 years ago! And, what's more, is that it was completely impromptu! I just happened to have an acoustic in the car, and they had a baby grand in the lobby, and we were visiting a friend of mine 1000 miles away from home. My friends Mom was living there. He said "Hey man, do you think you could play a song or 2 for her while you're here?" I thought for a sec and said "What the hoo!" I grabbed the guitar, my wife sits down at the grand, and we rocked that place man! Did mostly 50's rock, Elivs, Jerry Lee, Lil Richard, etc. as best we could with the tools we had. Man... I'm telling you, every single person came out of their rooms, walkers and all, and were dancin' and singin' and snappin' their fingers! It was a BALL!!!! All the staff came out and had a swell time too! It was one of the single most awesome gig experiences I ever had. Those people had a blast and left with smiles on their faces, an extra spring in their steps, and we even signed a few autographs! In some ways I think we travelled back in time, if only just for a lil while ;)
     
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  20. draggindakota

    draggindakota Tele-Meister

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    Sorta...growing up our church band went to the nursing home my mom worked at every other Saturday and played for about an hour.
     
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