Part 1 - Getting your foot in the door to sing to senior adults
Part 2 - Treat the first ttime to sing to senior adults as an audition.
Part 3 - The basic equipment you need to bring with you.
Part 4 - Giving senior adults the chance to experience emotion through music.
Part 5 - The "Do's and Don'ts" when singing to senior adults.
This blog post is "Part 1" of a series I've wanted to write for some time. I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to email me your thoughts and questions.
As a result of a recent conversation with our local city manager (all relationships begin somewhere) I was put into contact with the coordinator of our local senior adult activity center. I went over to introduce myself, and to volunteer to to sing.
Because I am a full-time pastor of a local church, I do not charge a fee when I sing. Sometimes (Christmas maybe?) I receive an honorarium. I either keep it or donate it back to the group. However, I don't go in asking for one.
So, for those interested, here is my usual introduction (face-to-face with another human being), which I've used since I was certified as a Therapeutic Music Entertainer:
Good morning/afternoon! My name is Pastor Rick and I am the pastor at First United Methodist Church. As part of my personal ministry and individual service to the community, I VOLUNTEER to sing for senior adults in community centers, retirement centers, and at nursing homes and rehab centers. I am a certified Therapeutic Music Entertainer, and I bring my own guitar and all needed equipment. Would the folks here possibly enjoy or benefit from a music show which includes some light comedy and some group sing-a-longs?
And that, my friends, starts the conversation. For the past 11 years, I have sung regularly for senior adults 3-4 times a month, and this introduction above (and it's earlier form) always seemed to help get my foot through a door. With the exception of one local nursing home, where the activity director and I just seem to always get each others voice mail, I have never been refused.
Something I also mention, if I feel doing so would be received well, that I come to sing as a volunteer. I am willing to serve as an "on-the-spot" chaplain if needed, but I am a volunteer. I also will attend volunteer training, and I always agree to participate in a background check if needed. I've had to go get fingerprinted a time or two. Such things are not uncommon especially if you are singing in a locked memory care unit.
In other words, it's not about me . . . it's about what I love to do, and those who are blessed or benefit by it. It's ALWAYS about the people you sing to. If's about you, then do this for money . . . and best of luck along the way.
So, if you have the desire to reach out in individual ministry or volunteer service by singing/providing music to senior adults, then consider the following list of contacts to make in your area. I've learned from experience that these are the first phones calls or first-time introductory meetings to schedule:
-Contact the local Senior Adult Activity Center. Many communities have them, even if you dont know where they are or have never been in one.
-Contact area Senior Adult Day Care Centers. Again, unless you have been to one, or used their services, you may not even know if there is one in your community. You don't know until you ask, or go on Google to search. In smaller communities, this center may use the Senior Adult Acitiviy Center, or they may exist in partnership at different locations.
-Contact the manager at city-owned housing authories. I sang regularly for residents of a local Housing Authority for 10 years. I even called their montly bingo games (and got a free pizza lunch as well!) I also asked, after the relationship had been established, to mediate some neighbor disputes, provide workshops on how to be better neighbors, conducted a few funerals, and provided some individual counseling on request.
-Contact the Activity Director / Life Enrichment Director of nearby nursing home / rehab centers. If you sing for free like I do . . . stress that information over and over. These are great folks, but they equate free with "you must not be very good." My response is simple, and one that will be proven. I am a certified therapeutic music entertainer, and I sing a lot better, and more professionally, for free than the guy who comes dressed up as Elvis (who can't sing) who you pay $200 each time they show up.
If you sing to senior adults, you at least need to have the appropriate ego! I am servant at heart, but free often means the program can be better than expected.
The venues I've listed above are all great places to start the process. Remember, it's ALL about relationships. Relationships begin with someone introducing themselves to others who might benefit from a music program.
One last thing about establishing relationships . . . and that's referrals. There are times when I do sing for a fee, and the venues where I do often contact me to check on my availability, because they heard something good about me from the folks who work at, or benefited from my volunteer music endeavors. Being able to say "yes" to some of those invites, lead to other opportunities.
In the next blog in this series, I will write about treating your first time to sing as an audition. This one approach has served me well, especially if I hopes to added to the locations regular calendar.
God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>