I am rediscovering paying it forward. Being able to give back is a really good feeling. And when I am asked why would I do so, my answer is always the same: “I can, so why wouldn’t I?”
When my Mom was still in her retirement home, the staff and other residents found out that I could play and sing, and so it became a bit of a running joke – that I had to sing for my supper! Once I realized how much the residents enjoyed the entertainment, I started looking forward to it.
Last year, I sang and played for a couple’s wedding, and the groom is the activities director at a retirement facility. He schedules monthly entertainment for the residents, and I told him to keep me in mind if he needed someone sometime. Well the call came, and the date I was asked to come and play was on my actual birthday. So I spent my birthday entertaining, and celebrating the residents whose birthdays were that same month. It turned out to be a lot of fun for me, and even better, I was asked back for another time to play.
Full disclosure – I do receive a small amount of cash for playing, but it’s not really close to what I normally receive for playing. It also ties up most of my afternoon with travel, set up, the hour of playing, and then tear down. It does put gas in the car, and leaves me with some spending money. The really cool part is the enjoyment I get out of entertaining for these folks! I play old songs that they can sing along to, I tell some facts about those songs (like when they were written and who performed them) and I tell a few stories. The songs themselves are ones that I have heard my entire life, although many of them I have never ever tried to play before.
The best part of all, is hearing their voices rise to meet mine as I play songs that they remember from their past. These folks are from an era when live music was part of their life, and someone who played and entertained for them was very much appreciated. They do shout out the odd request, and they are very surprised and happy when I can play even a bit of it for them. The Thanks that I receive at the end are heartfelt, and I know that I brightened up part of their day.
I have been asked back for another visit, and this time I have asked for a handful of requests be sent to me before the date so I can prepare. Not only am I looking forward to the requests, but I am already planning the other parts of the set I will play. To say that I am looking forward to the next time I play for them is an understatement. Over my years of making music, I have played for some huge audiences, but I have to admit, that playing solo for a small group of appreciative seniors is very rewarding indeed.