For Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving Day, I brought my 70-something mom to Roselani Place to celebrate with the residents. I played the electric keyboard while the residents and their guests enjoyed their chef-cooked luncheons. Music has an amazing way of uniting people when they recognize tunes they know and start humming. Some came up and thanked me afterwards.
I love looking for music to play for an audience. For both luncheons, I had borrowed several volumes of sheet music from the local library: music from the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s. Because of the diverse ethnicities of the residents, I even included the popular “Sakura” and Hawaiian songs. I wanted to play them the way I prepared them on the grand piano I practised on.
Unfortunately an electric keyboard, despite its bells and whistles, is not an acoustic piano.
Once the restaurant was filled, the people in the back could not hear me. I had cranked up the volume to the max. I tried fiddling with the instrument selection. A harpsichord sound was surprisingly louder than the “grand piano” selection. I tried synchronising a drum beat to it. I could not increase the overall volume.
When I first visited Roselani earlier this year, I was eager to try the upright piano in the reception area. I quickly learned that the entire treble half was long gone. Unstoppable, I moved to the bass half and continued to play. Somebody switched off the piped recorded music. The residents started to listen as if finally awakened from their reveries. The piano was different from the constant music coming out of overhead speakers. There was a person at the piano. Knowing that they were listening changed the way I played. It was no longer practice but performance.
I know for a fact that live foreground music is much more effective than recorded background music. In my research into programming live music for the elderly, I learned that live music is therapeutic for alzheimer sufferers. Just google “alzheimer music” and see the evidence. I have seen a passive audience come alive when they see and hear a live concert. Even if they cannot speak or recognise me, I can see life in their eyes and feel the firmness of their hand grip. In years of playing in such homes throughout the Netherlands, my piano guitar duo has revised our repertoire to choose what works best. The staff and volunteers at such homes know that the choice of music directly affects how well the residents sleep at night.
What will it take to move a working piano to Roselani Place?
Fundraising to get a piano in there?
Roselani Place is a 501c organization. This is a form of savings for anyone who is leaving the island but is stranded by a piano they can’t sell should consider donating to Roselani. They can deduct the value of their piano against their income tax. It’s a last resort, unless they are prepared to pay for storage or leave it with a tuner or music store for sale on consignment.
I suppose one way to find out the attractiveness of my proposal is to monitor Craigslist. How long does it take before a piano gets sold? Or perhaps I should ask a piano tuner or technician.