Resident’s requests are right up Steve Kolb’s alley

“On June 15, I led music at Beacon Shores Nursing. The facility was not pleasant–bad smell, unkept grounds and interior, residents seemed fearful and confused. The piano was filthy, out of tune, and the room was not well organized for a singalong.

As the program began, a verbal fight broke out between two of the residents! After about a minute(!), aides separated the two, but the tone was set. I started with some upbeat songs folks seemed to know, but I actually messed up some of the lyrics! I think we were all a bit undone by the battle we’d just witnessed.

After that, things settled in. I’d play several songs, and then asked for requests. Eventually, they started making lots of requests. One gentlemen was trying to ask for a song by name, but it was hard to discern what he wanted. Another resident told me, “He wants to hear ‘My Funny Valentine!’ As I began to play it, the man who requested it bowed his head, and began to cry gently, mouthing the words. It was obvious this was an important song for him. Everyone applauded.

After that, the time flew by, with lots of requests, and a fair amount of singing by about half the folks, but even those not singing were tapping their feet, or clapping. We shared lots of eye contact and bits of conversation between the songs. As I announced our final song, one resident, one of the ones who was in the fight, called out passionately, “Oh, please play ‘Over the Rainbow’! Please!” So I did, and everyone, it seemed, sang along. “If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why, oh why can’t I?” Wow. A few tears.

I’d love to go back there, whenever I can. It was a beautiful experience, made all the more beautiful by the contrast to its beginning!”  Steve Kolb