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  1. #1

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    Mike (keyboard/sax) and I (guitar) played our 1st Senior Living Facility gig yesterday. $100 for one hour (15 tunes) on a Sunday afternoon, and it was a gas! The audience was both attentive and appreciative. And since we’re both 61, these folks made us feel like kids! We’ve got two more lined up this month. We played songs from the late 30’s through early 60’s and left out our newer (70’s) material. Here’s the setlist; italics = sax lead, where I play mostly straight rhythm with some bass and counter lines:
    Sleepwalk
    Autumn Leaves
    Wonderland By Night / Stranger On The Shore
    Walk Don’t Run
    Girl From Ipanema
    Misty
    Satin Doll
    I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You
    Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye
    Somewhere Over The Rainbow
    Last Date
    One Note Samba
    Days of Wine & Roses
    Summertime
    Tenor Madness

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  3. #2

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    the first time I played a senior living community, I gotta admit, I was thinking "boy, i've certainly cashed in my "cool" chips, huh?"

    But they paid a good wage, and the residents were very appreciative. I guess some folks find it strange i share musical taste with people my grandparents age, but hey, good music is good music!

  4. #3

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    I have done it, but always volunteer. Helped me get my solo performance anxieties out. People could name the tunes within a couple of bars.

  5. #4

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    What happens when there are no more seniors from the "Golden Age" of music era??? Will there be an audience for me when I finally get out there???

    We have to bring swing/bebop/American Songbook back!!

    Sailor

  6. #5

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    In 20-25 years, I think you'll be expected to play the Lennon-McCartney catalog! Could be worse ...

  7. #6

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    Yeah...that's not too bad...but what about all the time spent on Ella, Joe Pass, Nat King Cole, etc....?

    What if in 20-25 years it's all Captain and Tenile, Lionel Richie, and Wild Cherry?

    Sailor

  8. #7

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    I have played gigs at Senior Living Facilities for many years.
    The repertoire that the people relate to varies as it does for everyone, especially with the diverse population of NYC.
    While folks often like best the music from their youth including the American Songbook standards, classic gospel tunes, old Cuban boleros and son, etc., they also know and relate to many more recent sounds. Using some simple math, a person who was 30 in 1960 is now 80.
    The Beatles, Motown and other hits from those years have long been a part of the repertoire.

  9. #8

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    The big band I play in does a Christmas nursing home tour every year. It's cool playing the classic swing tunes they used to groove to when they were teenagers. Ellington, Basie, Goodman, etc. One of our other highlights of the year is a Valentines Day dance at a local senior citizen center. Attendance is almost 300 and they are dancing fools! Lots of fun. I've got a couple of 80 year old groupies stalking me.
    Last edited by cosmic gumbo; 05-11-2010 at 04:27 AM.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sailor
    Yeah...that's not too bad...but what about all the time spent on Ella, Joe Pass, Nat King Cole, etc....?

    What if in 20-25 years it's all Captain and Tenile, Lionel Richie, and Wild Cherry?

    Sailor
    Or Kiss, AC/DC and Poison
    Brad

  11. #10

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    My wife and I often perform at senior facility gigs in my home town. (Payson, Az) Since this is primarily a retirement town, there are several senior living facilities so we do a lot of these performances (always voluntary here) and the reward is a very appreciative audience.

    wiz

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by wizard3739
    My wife and I often perform at senior facility gigs in my home town. (Payson, Az) Since this is primarily a retirement town, there are several senior living facilities so we do a lot of these performances (always voluntary here) and the reward is a very appreciative audience.

    wiz
    That, and I usually have a couple of the single gals wanting to buy me drinks. Ensure of course.

  13. #12

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    Do you need to take breaks? Depends.

  14. #13

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    I also love playing for seniors. They love that someone, anyone, will take their time to come and play for them. The only group that might rival seniors in terms of appreciation of the music is children and they are another story entirely. For me, both usually end up being done gratis, but hey, the appreciation is worth it.

    Karmic-ally speaking, I certainly hope that when/if I get into that position somebody will come along and play me music. Otherwise it's a pretty lonely existence.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by CraigB
    I also love playing for seniors. They love that someone, anyone, will take their time to come and play for them. The only group that might rival seniors in terms of appreciation of the music is children and they are another story entirely. For me, both usually end up being done gratis, but hey, the appreciation is worth it.

    Karmic-ally speaking, I certainly hope that when/if I get into that position somebody will come along and play me music. Otherwise it's a pretty lonely existence.
    So true. I hope that when I am in that position, playing guitar will be one of the things I can still do. Taking a look at current and recent elder statesmen on guitar, Bucky Pizzarelli, Jimmy Wyble, Jim Hall, and Les Paul are great examples of guys who play(ed) well into the later stages of life, and at a pretty high level.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by derek
    So true. I hope that when I am in that position, playing guitar will be one of the things I can still do. Taking a look at current and recent elder statesmen on guitar, Bucky Pizzarelli, Jimmy Wyble, Jim Hall, and Les Paul are great examples of guys who play(ed) well into the later stages of life, and at a pretty high level.
    I agree.

    I love that about jazz, actually-- I feel like I can keep at it, keep learning, and still play when I'm old and grey, and not just still be taken seriously, but be better at it than ever. I always use Jimmy Raney as an example--I think he might have been playing the best of his life in the last few recordings he made....

    well, I'm already pretty grey, but...

  17. #16

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    Let's not forget Mundell Lowe, who's still gigging at 88! He's played with everyone from Billie Holiday and Bird to Bill Evans (and in this youtube video, we find out who Debby is!)


  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDaddyLoveHandles
    Let's not forget Mundell Lowe, who's still gigging at 88! He's played with everyone from Billie Holiday and Bird to Bill Evans (and in this youtube video, we find out who Debby is!)

    Absolutely. Mundy and his dropped D jazz guitar. A true gentleman of jazz.

  19. #18

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    Yup! Mundelle is a fine example of a true Southern gentleman. When I was at G.I.T. (1978), he taught me how to read music and many other things I value. When he taught our class, he always grabbed my Johnny Smith and tuned the E string down to D.

    wiz

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by wizard3739
    Yup! Mundelle is a fine example of a true Southern gentleman. When I was at G.I.T. (1978), he taught me how to read music and many other things I value. When he taught our class, he always grabbed my Johnny Smith and tuned the E string down to D.

    wiz
    Great story. I would be tempted not to tune it back, and have him show me how he does what he does. Pretty rare approach, and a sure way to get an individual sound going.

  21. #20

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    We did a couple more Senior Living performances this past weekend. It's such a pleasure to bring a little joy into these folks' lives! Saturday was a pretty alert crowd. Sunday was more of an almost-a-nursing-home group. It took a little while, but I started to see some toe-tapping in the back of the room. But this was really cool: there was a lady in the front row with a beautiful voice who sang great counterlines to every tune we played - it was a gas!

  22. #21

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    Tom I want to again applaud what you are doing for this mostly forgotten population. I can't think of a group who is more deserving of the joy that music can bring.

  23. #22

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    Thanks Derek, but they do pay us. These places are generally corporate owned and operated. However, I do find it tremendously gratifying. We would definitely do some performances for free, if it's more of a public housing venue with little or no budget.

  24. #23

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    The saga continues!

    We had a return engagement scheduled for tomorrow at the second place I mentioned in Post #20. A woman from there called me early in the week and asked if we could do it today for two hours instead of just one tomorrow for double the pay. I said sure. We showed up early, and someone else who was in charge for the day said we were supposed to be playing next Sunday. She was all in a tizzy: everyone was waiting to hear us, but they didn't have the budget to pay us for both today and next Sunday, and who would they get for next Sunday if we played today?! We just said that we'd be glad to play for free today and come back next Sunday to fulfill the original contact (even though the mix-up was not our fault). Here's the good Karma part: we played great, and next Sunday is their Lobster Fest!

    By the way, I recently realized that since I started playing in September of 1960, I've been playing the guitar for 50 years! Jeez, I suppose I should be better than I am by now!
    Last edited by Tom Karol; 09-05-2010 at 10:19 PM.

  25. #24

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    i volunteer-DJ on the last friday of the month at the downtown senior center in my town. i call my event the "swingin' seniors club" and i play motown, '50s rock 'n roll, blues, country, etc. it's so fun!

  26. #25

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    I played a nursing home only once about 10 years ago, but I need to do it again soon. I didn't get paid, but I did get heckled! I walked in and Yanni was playing on TV so I thought my New Age-ish stuff would fly. Most loved it, but one woman wanted "somthin' jazzy and fast...we ain't ALL dead yet!". The thing is, I was playing Zeppelin, Hendrix, Van Halen, etc. With one step on the stompbox in front of me I could have slayed them all. But I got a lot of smiles and one guy dancing to a John Mellencamp song.

    You might not need to reach all that far back for tunes that will entertain an older crowd, it's more the style you play. Heck, I've heard metal tunes like "Black Hole Sun" (Brad Mehldau) turned into good jazz readings. But the Beatles catalog as the future of senior entertainment isn't too far off. "Yesterday" (without the "s" at the end for you die hard jazzers) and "Something" are beautiful classics that transcend the generations.

    I had a folk player tell me that the nursing home gigs are his best. He told me that they will pay, and pay well. You just have to ask. They have entertainment budgets. The higher end, non-care facilities have even more need for live music, and tend to have higher budgets.
    Last edited by woyvel; 09-07-2010 at 10:07 PM.

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by woyvel
    ... But the Beatles catalog as the future of senior entertainment isn't too far off. ...
    the future is here. my seniors love to dance to "twist and shout"!

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Karol
    We did a couple more Senior Living performances this past weekend. It's such a pleasure to bring a little joy into these folks' lives! Saturday was a pretty alert crowd. Sunday was more of an almost-a-nursing-home group. It took a little while, but I started to see some toe-tapping in the back of the room. But this was really cool: there was a lady in the front row with a beautiful voice who sang great counterlines to every tune we played - it was a gas!
    Quote Originally Posted by derek
    Tom I want to again applaud what you are doing for this mostly forgotten population. I can't think of a group who is more deserving of the joy that music can bring.
    Nice one Tom and Derek. It's a fact that memories in folk disabled by altzeimers and dimentia (disease and old age respectively) are triggered by music and melody. My wife is an occupational therapist and uses music as reminicent therapy for our old folk here in SW Scotland.
    Whether it's for free or paid you guys are providing something more than entertainment, keep it up.

  29. #28

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    Two hours of playing for an appreciative audience - they loved our expanded setlist (see below). And we got $100 each (it's owned by a for-profit corporation) and Clam Chowder, Boiled Lobster, and Key Lime Pie with wonderful dinner companions!

    Sleepwalk
    Summertime
    As Tears Go By
    Georgia On My Mind
    Walk Don’t Run
    Autumn Leaves
    Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying
    Girl From Ipanema
    Hello Mary Lou
    Here There And Everywhere
    I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You
    Wonderland By Night / Stranger On The Shore
    Let It Be
    Misty
    Last Date
    Somewhere Over The Rainbow
    I’ll Follow The Sun
    One Note Samba
    Let It Be Me / Love Hurts
    Every Day
    Days of Wine & Roses
    In My Room / In My Life
    Mercy, Mercy, Mercy / Watermelon Man
    People Get Ready / Lean on Me
    Tears In Heaven
    Jason’s Jump (Original)
    All My Lovin’
    Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye
    Sounds Of Silence
    Satin Doll
    Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
    Tenor Madness
    Last edited by Tom Karol; 09-12-2010 at 07:56 PM.

  30. #29

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    I've been playing at various senior venues for the past year and half with a friend who sings. (Sort of like Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass, except she's no Ella and I'm no Joe.) Some of them are "senior centers", where the people just come to spend time. Some are "senior residences" , which are also known here in the NY area as "assisted living" places. A few are full blown nursing homes. Some of the gigs are modestly paid, and some are volunteer. The one constant from place to place and regardless of payment is the enthusiasm of the audiences. I love it.

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by DiznBird
    I've been playing at various senior venues for the past year and half with a friend who sings. (Sort of like Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass, except she's no Ella and I'm no Joe.) Some of them are "senior centers", where the people just come to spend time. Some are "senior residences" , which are also known here in the NY area as "assisted living" places. A few are full blown nursing homes. Some of the gigs are modestly paid, and some are volunteer. The one constant from place to place and regardless of payment is the enthusiasm of the audiences. I love it.
    Nothing like playing for a thankful audience. Welcome to the group.

  32. #31

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    Did another one today. As always, it was very gratifying. My wife enjoys coming to these gigs - she's terrific at interacting with seniors. She told me she overheard another great comment: "These are not local amateurs; these are high class musicians!" Well, I don't know about that, but it's nice to hear!

  33. #32

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    We've got a few of these gigs coming up for the holiday season, so we're modifying our setlist temporarily to include some or all of these:
    Have Yourself A Merry Little Xmas
    I'll Be Home For Christmas
    Jingle Bell Rock
    Let It Snow
    Moonlight In Vermont
    No Place Like Home For The Holidays
    Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
    Silver Bells
    The Christmas Song
    White Christmas

  34. #33

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    Oh wow. This thread is right up my alley. This is all I do. I volunteer to play at one place twice a week. I've been playing there for 4 years now. Talk about an appreciativve audience. If someone doesn't like what I'm playing, I tell them to cut my salary in half. I also tell them if they don't like what I'm playing to turn down their hearing aids and I'll tell them to turn them back up after I'm done.

  35. #34

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    About to leave for the 1st 'holiday' gig. Settled on:
    Jingle Bell Rock
    Let It Snow
    Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
    Silver Bells
    The Christmas Song
    White Christmas
    We picked these, because they should be the easiest to do with zero rehearsal!
    Attached Images Attached Images Gigs at Senior Living Facilities!-holiday10-jpg 

  36. #35

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    Reading this thread I got the idea to play with a friend in a Senior Living Facility. We're playing in a guitar-duo since two years and were searching for our frist gig as a duo. So we asked for a gig (for free) and got one. I live in Germany. And we were very nervous and were wondering if the old people like jazz.

    But it was very, very nice. We started with an easy tune - Centerpiece. And at the end we heard a woman say "That was very nice". We played ten tunes - almost an hour, got coffee and cake - and a bottle of wine as our first fee (is it the right word?).

    Our setlist:

    Centerpiece
    Blue Bossa
    Autumn Leaves
    Summertime
    Fly Me To the Moon
    Groove Yard
    The Girl From Ipanema
    Little Waltz
    Black Orpheus
    Beautiful Love

  37. #36

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    So we played, "Jingle Bell Rock," and this one lady was tapping her foot. And when we finished it, my wife overheard her say to no one in particular, "That was was just darling!" I love playing for these folks!

  38. #37

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    Did another one today. They're always fun and very gratifying. It's really nice to be able to brighten up those folks' lives for an hour!

    But we're getting bored with our set list (we only play for an hour):
    Sleepwalk
    Autumn Leaves
    Georgia On My Mind
    Walk Don’t Run
    Girl From Ipanema
    Misty
    Satin Doll
    I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You
    Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye
    Somewhere Over The Rainbow
    Last Date
    One Note Samba
    Days of Wine & Roses
    Summertime
    Tenor Madness

    So we've decided to replace or rotate many of them with some or all of these:
    All Blues
    All The Things You Are
    Black Orpheus
    Blue Bossa
    Fly Me To The Moon
    Lil' Darlin
    My Funny Valentine
    Polka Dots And Moonbeams
    There Will Never Be Another You
    Tuxedo Junction

  39. #38
    The last time I played at a "rest home" for elderly folks, I was surprised when a man in a wheel chair yelled out, "stop playing this old crap, play some rock and roll." At first I was taken aback, but then realized that if it was 2010 at the time and the man was 80 years old, that means he was 26 when Elvis came out with Hound Dog in 1956 !

  40. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    I guess some folks find it strange i share musical taste with people my grandparents age, but hey, good music is good music!
    It makes me wonder if, twenty years from now, retirement community sets will open with, say, "I Fought The Law (And The Law Won)."

    The people who heard my favorite songs when they were new are either dead or creaky. They do love that music and will pay to hear it; thank God!

  41. #40

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    Like some of you posting here, I, a guitarist, and a singer are putting together a set or two to go do a Senior tour.
    My original thought is that I can get a little experience playing in front of people who are glad we are there. I was fortunate enough to find a young woman who sings very well who is willing to join me. I am very please to hear so many of you that enjoy this experience.

    I really appreciate some of the set lists below. Great ideas for songs.

    What kinds of topics do you use to talk to the crowd a bit?
    I need some appropriate jokes or something.

    I am particularly excited about the Christmas season.

  42. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thumper
    Like some of you posting here, I, a guitarist, and a singer are putting together a set or two to go do a Senior tour.
    My original thought is that I can get a little experience playing in front of people who are glad we are there. I was fortunate enough to find a young woman who sings very well who is willing to join me. I am very please to hear so many of you that enjoy this experience.

    I really appreciate some of the set lists below. Great ideas for songs.

    What kinds of topics do you use to talk to the crowd a bit?
    I need some appropriate jokes or something.

    I am particularly excited about the Christmas season.
    I'd look into acquiring some of Bob Hope's material, or Milton Berle.

    Just be yourself and engage them; they will appreciate it, even if you're not up there cracking one liners. I have a relative who is in an assisted living and just today when I was visiting a band was setting up that comes once every couple of weeks. You can't even believe how happy the folks were just to see them and this was when they were setting up. Generally they're just nice and friendly, not too jokey, they take requests, and just sort of talk to the residents about whatever interests them when a resident brings something up. It always goes over great.

    Best of luck!
    Last edited by paynow; 08-21-2011 at 07:09 PM. Reason: typos

  43. #42

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    The Senior market is one of the growing markets in the USA for good music. As it turns out, the era of the late 40s-50s-early 60s is now the one they want to hear, including Bobby Darin, Sinatra, Elvis, Orbison, Belafonte, etc. Here's a tip: please the staff as well as the residents; the staff hires you back. A little up-tempo jump blues like Jump Jive & Wail, an Elvis hit, a spritely Latin groove will go a long way. Jazz is fine, but you're better off not calling it that. As far as patter goes, introducing an old tune with "You're all too young to remember this" goes over very well, especially if you are significantly younger than they are. Don't talk down to them, many of them have been around the world, seen the great stars, and are familiar with jazz, flamenco, classical, etc. I have replaced my teaching practice with senior and school gigs, it's much more rewarding to play than to teach, and the money can be quite good if you have a good act and good marketing materials.