Friday, September 30, 2016

Singing to Senior Adults: #3 - What to bring with you . . .

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.

What do you bring with you when you sing for seniors?   My personal list is not that long.

First . . . bring YOU!  Sounds simple, and kind of silly as well.  But if you don't show up, there isn't any music!  If you are a solo performer, then be sure to make every effort to arrive a few minutes early.  Setting up to sing for senior adults seldom takes me more than 5 minutes, even with tuning.  Be on time and be prepared.  Be dressed appropriately for the venue and for the event.

Second . . . bring your instrument!  There are several times in my singing history when I have shown up in a rush to get to the venue, and I brought the wrong guitar . . . which is always the one that has a broken string, or needs a fret job, etc.  The time to check your instrument is BEFORE you arrive at the venue.  Here is another argument for having one guitar.

Third . . . you need music!   OK, there are several options here.  If you have all your music memorized (and bless you if your mind favors this approach) then you are good to go. I have memorized quite a few songs: however, I do not sing every day.  Sometimes I need to have the song in front of me. If nothing else, it gives me the the confidence to quickly glance for the word or guitar chord that I might be forgetting.

When I first started singing, I simply sang from a songbook with the pages marked with Post-It notes.  As my song list expanded over time, and my eyes got worse over the years, I began printing out songs on two 8.5 x 11 inch sheets of paper, and brought all the copies with me in a nice 3-ring notebook. The nice thing about printing songs on two sheets that face each other, you can adjust the print size for old eyes.

If you use a songbook or a notebook, then be sure to bring a music stand!  There are no guarantees that any venue where you sing to senior adults will have a music stand.

I made the switch to an iPad about 4 years ago.   Wow!   Now I have EVERY song I know, and some I don't know, at my fingertips. No more heavy 3-ring notebooks!   I use the My Lyric Book app.  In My Lyric Book, you can organize multiple sets of songs, or create a songlist specific to your situation.   I also use an AirTurn BT-105 bluetooth floor pedal, which helps advance the words to the song on the iPad screen.  It can also advance my iPad screen to the next song on the set list!  Great right?  It is . . .  IF you keep the batteries charged on both the iPad and the AirTurn pedal!

If you use an iPad, or another model of tablet computer, then you will need a music stand or a tablet holder attached to a mic stand.  There are countless numbers of tablet holders available.  Lot's of music stores have them, and you can find one to fit your tablet computer on the internet in no time at all.

Fourth . . . bring the appropriate accessories!  My list is based on my personal preferences.   Your list may be different.  I bring a small back pack in which I carry my iPad and AirTurn pedal.  I have a spare guitar strap, a capo, a couple extra sets of strings, and a winding/string cutting tool.  I bring an electronic tuner, unless my guitar has one installed.  I bring a couple extra  9-volt or AA batteries for the guitar, and  batteries for the tuners.  I bring extra charging cabels for the iPad and for the AirTurn pedal.  I keep a 12' extention cord in my car to use in case I forgot to charge the iPad or foot pedal.

I always have extra guitar picks with me in a small pick holder attached to my key chain. You want to keep guitar picks handy in your pocket, or in your guitar case.

You will notice that I haven't mentioned anything about amplifiers.  At all venues, I usually play one of my Martin's, or one of my Guild jumbos.  My guitars are all loud guitars.  I don't need to strum or pick at them hard to get a good sound.  And . . . my experience is that senior adults, with hearing aides, don't care for amplified music.   I have a voice that projects well, and the venues I play are usually hard walled dining rooms or activity rooms, with hard floors.  If you want an amp or portable PA, check out the Lucas Nano PA system.

So . . . all I carry into a venue is, in one hand, my guitar (in the case).  In the other hand I have my folding mic stand with my iPad holder attached.  Over my shoulder I have my small back pack with my iPad, AirTurn pedal and accessories over my should.  Easy in, easy set-up, easy pack-up, and easy out to my car.

I hope this article gets you thinking about simplifying your set up, especailly if you primarily play the guitar.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Singing to Senior Adults: #2 - Treat the first time to sing as an audition.


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.

OK . . . you've made a contact, gone and introduced yourself, and you've been placed on the calendar of upcoming events!   Congratulations.

Now what do you do?  Well before you go any further, please understand that singing to senior adults is NOT ABOUT YOU!   It's ALL ABOUT WHO YOU ARE SINGING TO!!!!!

Sorry for the caps, but I wanted to make a point (and no, I wasn't yelling).

I have certain songs that I love to sing.  I have an iPad (more on that later in the series) with the words and guitar chords to over 400 songs I've sung to senior adults over many years. That's all well and good. However, the songs you sing to senior adults need to be the songs that they want to hear and like to hear, or songs that are somewhat similar.

At some locations, all they wanted me to play was gospel music.   At another location, they wanted Elvis songs (yeah, mostly older women . . . I can sing Elvis songs, but I don't look a thing like him).  The people at another location wanted to hear mostly folk music.  Some wanted show tunes.

When senior adults in a nursing home or rehab unit come to hear you sing, they are looking for an escape.  They aren't living in their homes.  They are usually dealing with health issues related directly to their age.  Some will have short-term memory issues.  Many will just plain be lonely.   Learn what kind of songs they want to hear, and include as many as you can over the span of several visits.  In doing so, you provide them a therapeutic time of escape from some of the things they are dealing with.  Giving them a time of musical respite is a wonderful gift.  The issues about life they are facing will be waiting for them.  Perhaps our music helps them see their problems in a different light.

It goes without saying that irst impressions are very important, not to mention the quality of your singing and how well you play your instrument.   So, here is what I have learned to do when singing for the first time, and it works for me very well.

1) I approach the first time I sing for any group as an audition, especially for senior adults.   I will come prepared with several songs in various catagories . . . early rock, old country, gospel, folk, love ballads, show tunes, and even a few fun children's songs.  These will be songs that I can "nail" in just about any situation.

2) I do not take requests the first time I sing.  Rather, I sing to let them know that I can provide a wide selection of music. This is a program that I will be well prepared for, and it will show in the quality of the performance.  My goal is that everyone will have a chance to clap their hands, tap their feet, and sing out loud at least once in the program.

3) I will take mental notes of what songs resonated with those in attendance.  I look for smiles.  I always made the effrot to shake hands with as many people as I can after the program.  I believe that thanking the residents who came is always a good diea. During these conversations, I will listen carefully to their remarks and comments about what songs they liked best, or songs they wished I'd have performed.  When I'm back in my car, I will transfer my mental notes to the little traveller's notebook I have with me at all times.   Those notes then determine my lists of songs for that location that I will have ready in my iPad (again, more on that in a later post).

4) I always thank the residents for letting me sing, and ask them to let the Activity or Life Enrichment Director know if they would like me to come back again.  Now normally, the staff in charge know pretty quickly if they are going to put you on the calendar on a regular basis after just a few songs.  But I always ask the people to vote.  I also encourage them to suggest songs I can sing "if/when" they invite me to return.

5)  It may be my first time to sing, but I do make it a point to dress for the occassion.  I sang for a new local group of seniors this past Saint Patrick's Day.  Yes, I wore green.  They were all wearing green as well!

Perhaps approaching the first time to sing as an audition might not be everyone's cup of tea.  The process works for me. Tuning in to the desires and needs of the "regulars" helps improve the therapeutic quality of the program for everyone.

Treat your first time to a new group of senior adults as an audition.  You will be better prepared, and in a better position to be invited back on a regular basis.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Friday, September 23, 2016

Reviews needed about Rainsong Guitars

I am interested in anyone's review of Rainsong Guitars.  Please email me if you can share from personal experience.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Benefits and blessings when singing . . .

Singing to older adults has its benefits.  Sometimes the benefit becomes a personal blessing.

I sang this morning at our local Senior Center.  I sing there once-a-month, and on other special occassions.  I will be the "entertainer" at their upcoming Community Thanksgiving Dinner in November.  I can't wait!

When I arrived at the Senior Center this morning, the first thing I heard was "tell us about your vacation!"  

"Aww, y'all don't want to hear about my vacation."

"Yes we do!  Tell us all about it!"

So, I did!  For about 10 minutes I told them about our vacation to Colorado, where we went, what we saw, where we ate, and where we stayed.  They seemed genuinely interested.

The truth is, it wasn't so much that they were interested in our trip.  They were interested in me, and I knew we had made a great connection as a result.

This is a phenomenon that happens sometimes when you sing to older adults.  They move from considering you as "an entertainer" to considering you as a friend.  In other words, the music has done what it was supposed to do . . . provide connections between people.

I truly do care for the people at the Senior Center.  That doesn't depend on whether you are a pastor or not.  If you are going to sing "therapeutically" to older adults, then you need to actually care about them. It's nice to know that the folks at the Senior Center have allowed me to step into their extended family.  We care about each other.

Being a pastor in a local church, I like these kind of connections.  As a pastor, I live and work within a defined community.  I spend about half my time in the community making and forming relationships.   As a result, I sometimes get invited to sing, instead of going into a nursing home or senior center and introducing myself.  This is a good thing.  It usually takes about a year for this to happen.  You have to put in the time and effort.

Maybe the best place to start singing to senior adults, if that is something you are interested in, or feel called to do, is someplace in your local home community.  Give it some thought.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Singing to Senior Adults: #1 - Getting your foot in the door!


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 . . . ><>

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I'm Back . . .

Howdy to all . . .

After much contemplation, talking with others (especially my therapist and also with my wife) I entered into a time of comtemplation to re-identify and re-evaluate the things in my life that were most important to me.  This is something I try to do on an annual basis; however, it had actually been about 3 years since I went through this process.  In reality, it is very hard work.  Although I am not as bad at doing so as I was when I am young, I sometimes get bogged down with uncertainty when I embark on a new or expanded endeavor.   Leaving a long time pastorate for a new church at age 59 compounded the fact that I had not gone through this process.  The grief of leaving has subsided, and the "picture" in my head of my perferred future was coming into better focus as a result.

It was time well spent.

Singing, playing guitar and making music has been so rooted in who I feel I'm called to be in my life.  It was good, as I went through the process of journaling my thoughts and reprioritizing what is important to me, to know that music was still very much a part of what makes my heart and soul beat the way they do. Even after taking a few months off, I found that I missed singing and playing very much.  It just makes me feel, well, in a word (and to quote Harry Chapin) "whole."  It connects me with the understanding of my call, of what I am here on earth, and in life, to do.

Besides my family, preaching and pastoral duties, music is one of the only things I am willing to work at with dedicated effort.   Hopefully that dedication will be much more focused than in the past.

So, I hope to begin writing and sharing on a more regular basis as I resume singing in the area, especially in nursing homes, senior citizen centers and for church and civic groups when I am invited to entertain as my personal and church calendars allow.  I'm back playing rhythm guitar for our little Praise Team as well.  To my amazement . . . I've already received a couple of invitations for events in 2017.

More to come!

God's grace still amazes me . . .  ><>