Hyperbole alert! Music is magic. It can work wonders. It connects people. It moves and inspires. It stirs memories. I somehow inherently understood all of this when I was bopping my little ten year old head to “Sir Duke” on my crappy record player. Or rocking out to my older brother’s Led Zeppelin records. Of course, the soul-numbing realities of adulthood can make you stop believing in magic. Or the power of music.
So I was a bit surprised at some of the reactions I got when I first started playing senior centers. Catatonic old ladies with heads drooped sedately on their chests would start to perk up. As I sang to people on locked-down dementia floors, folks who probably don’t recognize their own loved ones would mouth the lyrics word-for-word with me. Here is a striking example of this power that made the rounds on the Internet a while back.
At the end of my visits, I always ask the residents if they have a favorite song I can learn for next time. Gladys wanted me to play “They Call The Wind Mariah.” She lives in a large senior complex with so many residents that they rotate me through a couple floors each month. So it’s usually four months between visits to any given floor. When the time came to hit Gladys’ floor again I was in the middle of a busy week. I forgot to check my notes for requests until late the night before I was supposed to play. When I saw her request I’m sorry to say I tiredly blew it off, thinking “she’ll never remember anyway.”
When I got to Gladys’ floor, I spotted her right away and went over to say hello.
“Hi, Gladys. How are you doing?”
“Oh, I’m pretty good.”
Then without missing a beat she asked “Did you learn that song ‘They Call The Wind Mariah’ for me?”
After getting over my shock and shame, I apologized and promised to play it next time (which I did). Ever since then I’ve taken my musical responsibility a little more seriously.
By the way, the shot above (and those in my new gallery) were taken by Mark Wojahn, a filmmaker and photographer who was kind enough to donate his services when he heard what I was doing. I guess volunteering is contagious. Thanks, Mark.