Healing, through live music performances. Giving Music is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit charitable organization.
Most of our ”audience” is confined to a nursing home, senior living facility or a Veteran’s Hospital. They are geographically separated from their friends and loved ones, have physical limitations that challenge them, and often have emotional and cognitive limitations as well. Given these restrictions, the ability to experience joy is also limited.
There are several reasons that music is the perfect antidote for these conditions.
Music is an important component of growing up. The music of our youth is packed with emotions, and research shows that the ability to recognize a favorite tune seldom gets compromised, even for people with major deficits. Research also shows that a person can recognize a favorite tune half a second into the opening note of that tune, even if it hasn’t been heard in 40 years. And with the recognition of that note and that tune comes the emotions originally associated with it. Literally time travel is involved!
Equally important is that music almost always accompanies the special events and rituals of our lives: birthdays, weddings, graduations, and dances, are all embellished with music, and by hearing the music from these events, the emotions that accompanied the events are re-experienced as well.
Music therapists have taught us that music has a profound power to modify emotions: to calm those who are upset, and to lift the spirits of those who are down.
For audiences with physical and cognitive limitations, music provides an opportunity to turn off the painful parts of life, shutting out both the physical sensations and emotional difficulties of the present while allowing them to live totally and happily in the moment.
When we are on stage and we look out at our audiences, we see that they are with us one hundred percent, if only for a short time. For that time, there is only ‘the now’ and ‘the now’ feels pretty good.
To spread musical joy in nursing homes, children’s and VA hospitals, and homeless shelters throughout the City and County of Los Angeles.
Giving Music is a 501 (c)(3) charity dedicated to bringing live music to care facilities and social service agencies. We are staffed by music, medical and social service professionals who are dedicated to bringing the joy and healing powers of music to nursing homes, hospitals, VA centers and shelters at no cost. Our volunteer musicians and singers have performed for thousands of residents at over a hundred care facilities. Our bands annually give over a hundred performances in nursing and convalescent homes throughout Southern California.
Our repertoire for the elderly consists of songs from the golden eras of popular music and is designed to evoke fond memories in senior citizens.
A number of recent studies have demonstrated that even in the most memory-deficient patients, including those suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s, music can spark recollections and evoke cognitive responses, often resulting in alleviation of depression and physical pain. By focusing on music from the 40s and 50s, we connect with elder care patients in ways that, until recently, health professionals did not think was possible.
A typical performance features an ensemble of three to five musicians accompanying one or more vocalists. Our performances feature music that is familiar to our audiences. We choose our material based on audience demographics and we often take requests.
For holidays, our groups prepare music specific to the occasion, including love songs for Valentine’s Day, patriotic material for July 4th, Veteran’s and Memorial Day, and holiday classics for the Christmas season.
Our performers engage audience members in sing-alongs and other participatory activities. In addition to our bands, we also feature classical ensembles, and solo and duet performers as well.
“After the last event, residents who are not normally able to give a response were suddenly clapping and singing. There’s clearly something happening here that’s quite wonderful.”
– Myles Andrews, Administrator, Highland Park Skilled Care Facility
“Our residents have never heard that kind of music. They were in great spirits not just for the rest of the day, but for the rest of the week!”
– Linda Goldfinger, Activity Director, Fireside Convalescent Hospital
“To our surprise, one of our residents who rarely speaks was rocking away, even putting her hands up and waving them along with the music.”
– Jean-Marie Meyer, Activity Director, Woodland Care Center
“Truly Awesome! It is caring people such as yourselves who make all the difference for our patients and make the world a brighter place.”
– Marianne Davis, Chief of Voluntary Service, Department of Veteran Affairs
“I have no words to express the excitement that your program put in my residents. Even the ones that never get out of their chairs were dancing and singing. Your carolers, musicians and every single person that was part of this amazing program need to know how grateful they all are. Thanks for bringing so much joy to them.”
– Vera Zakuto, Fairwinds-West Hills Program Director
“Giving Music was exceptional! Five wonderfully talented musicians delighted our residents…and we hope to see you again soon!”
– Howard Celnik, Activity Director, Fireside Convalescent Hospital, Santa Monica
The big guy standing near the parking garage told us, “I’m just the security guard,” but said he would try to help the band find parking. If you know Santa Monica, where we were doing an outdoor gig at a nice nursing home, you know we were a lot more likely to need help with parking than we were with security. We all got a good place to park our cars and only had to carry our equipment a short distance. It was a sunny day and we set up on the patio where the residents were enjoying a beautiful day by the beach with a bar-b-que and live music. That’s us.
I’m sort of the roadie and equipment guy as well as the photographer and president of our organization. With all that assumed authority I get to set things up, to a degree, the way I want them to be. I like to give our singers long cords, thirty to fifty feet, on their microphones so they can get off the stage and out into the crowd. The nursing home staff and residents seem to like that and the singers do too. The residents often sing along and hug the singers. As a medical social worker, I have always encouraged physical contact like that and the nursing home residents love it when I bring pictures of them with the singers or the band the next time we play there.
Near the end of our set, the residents were dancing and singing along and I happened to glance over at the big security guard, also watching the show. As I looked closer, I noticed he had tears on his cheeks. No social worker would let that get by, so I walked over to make sure he was OK. Sometimes our performances hit a strong musical memory and it isn’t uncommon for patients at nursing homes to tear up from such memories. But it didn’t seem like that would be the case with this guy. He was too big and strong for that.
“Are you all right?” I queried.
“Yeah, I guess,” he answered and then went silent for a moment. I did too.
“I’ve worked here for a few years now and seen a lot of musicians come and play, but you guys are the first ones I’ve seen that physically touch the patients. Other bands seem a little frightened to do it. But look at them. Look how happy and content they are.”
By now he was wiping at his eyes trying to keep up with those happy tears. Pretty brave, I thought, for a guy who was “just the security guard.”
We still didn’t need one of those. We just needed help parking. But the residents really did need that security guard just like they needed that touch. It was a special gig for us, getting noticed in that way. Even the social worker.
–Bob Lanz, L.C.S.W.