For me as a Conductor the whole project was inspiring from the start and from the start I felt that not only we could bring smiles to the seniors taking the program but that we could actually learn a lot from them. I was not disappointed.
I had 9 people who in their 80s and two of them in their nineties challenging themselves to learn something new, to learn how to play a musical instrument. I only wish that if I do have the good fortune of getting to my nineties I will have the same attitude as them. Right from the start they were keen, keen, keen. They practiced and were very dedicated. When we broke for the Christmas holidays I encouraged them to continue practicing so they would retain what they had learned. Well, not only they continued to practice but they also got together by themselves on a weekly basis and recruited another resident who plays the piano to help them. And they participated in their Christmas concert by playing together as a band the few pieces that they knew. According to all accounts they were a hit.
When we resumed in January one of the residents was disappointed because she was going to France for three weeks. So she arranged to rent a euphonium in France so that she could continue practicing while there. When she got to France and went to the music store she ended up buying the new euphonium (mucho Euros) and when she came back she was playing better than when she had left and now she was playing this gorgeous euphonium which she owned. I was joking a little bit with the oldest participant who is 97 (ninety seven). It went like this: Gee, you are looking so good, how do you keep so young. He responded in a conspiratorial way – it’s the wine! I said – you drink wine? Every day – he replied – and women. Wow – I said – women? At your age? So he came closer, patted my shoulder and with a wink he said: If you can’t handle the women, you can double up on the wine. How is that for a philosophy of life?
The mentors were wonderful and worked with them doing all the exercise that I asked them to do. They were always punctual, pleasant and encouraging. One of the volunteer mentors asked me whether she could bring her daughter as part of her high school civic assignment to do 40 hours of volunteer work. I happily said yes and paired her with another 90 year old player. He is actually 95 and loved his young teacher right from the start. She could have asked him to do head stands and he would not be able to do them but he probably would have tried to. And she being more than 80 years younger loved him and treated him like a fond grandfather. I was more than happy to sign the paper certifying her volunteer hours.
At the final concert, they played, they read a poem about the experience written by one of them, there was a song from the choir, a funny story and loads of laughter and good times.
In the end we did learn a lot from them. We learned to love life and to be open to new things no matter how old and we were re-confirmed in the knowledge that music transcends all barriers and goes straight to the heart. Thanks for the Grant. Thank you residents and thank you to all that participated.
Sal Castiglione Proud Conductor Of the Summit Terrace Green Band