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Give Back For the Holidays - Perform At A Retirement Home Or Hospital


ith Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and a constant barrage of holiday-themed advertising aimed at consumers, it’s not too difficult to lose sight of the “reason for the season.” This time of year, many people include charity work with their traditional gift-giving. Working at a local soup kitchen or volunteering to serve meals at a shelter is a great way to give back for the holidays. Indeed, sharing your time and talents with others is one of the best ways to celebrate the season.

Is there an assisted living facility or retirement home near you? How about a hospital, emergency shelter, or any other organization dedicated to helping your neighbors (think about your local animal rescue shelter, too). If the answer is “yes,” then you, as a musician, are uniquely positioned to offer some uplifting holiday cheer this season to folks who may be in desperate need of it.

You know the power of music. It stirs emotions and uplifts spirits. For those who may be isolated because of age, disability, illness, economic circumstance, or any number of reasons, hearing live music could be the perfect tonic. If you perform at a facility caring for patients with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia or PTSD, studies have shown that music therapy has measurable benefits. 

Where to Begin?

Depending on the size of your home town or your location, you’ll most likely have plenty of choices for your charitable music performances. If you’re not already aware of facilities or organizations in your area that would welcome a free concert, do a search online to find the nearest ones. Then simply reach out and ask if they would welcome you. The worst that could happen is a polite decline of the offer. 

Once you have a few destinations picked out, make a schedule with a scheduling app or, if you or one of your friends is good with spreadsheets, that’s an efficient way of planning your mini-tour. Depending on how much ground you have to cover, you might even be able to schedule two performances in one day. For example, many nursing facilities are located close by a hospital, so you can arrange to conduct an afternoon concert at one place, and then schedule an evening performance at the other.

Not only will you gain important performance skills, you’ll be spreading holiday happiness in places where the residents face daily challenges. Plus, it doesn’t have to be an elaborate show. You and a few of your friends can easily arrange to play holiday songs at these places with just a little preparation.

Make Contact

Although it might be fun to create a “spontaneous” performance, your concert really should be scheduled with the administrative office if it involves more than three or four performers. That way you can be sure to have plenty of room to play, and the residents will know when to expect you (or your group).

First, mark off a number of possible performance dates, and when you contact the facility, you can ask which times would be the best. You’ll want to arrange your concert when patients aren’t eating dinner or scheduled with other activities.

Make a Song List

When creating your song list, you’ll want to pick a number of seasonal holiday classics, but keep your audience in mind. For example, if you are playing in the children’s ward of a hospital, try to include songs that the kids will know (and can sing-along to), such as “Frosty the Snowman” or the “Grinch” song. On the other hand, if you’re performing at a retirement home to give back for the holidays, the beloved holiday favorites made famous by crooners like Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra such as White Christmas, Silent Night, or Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, should rank high on your list. If you want to go up-tempo, Hava Nagila will be especially appreciated by any Jewish members of your audience. And don’t be surprised if you get some audience members up on their feet and dancing!

Don’t be worried if you don’t know some of these classics. A live musical performance will be a wonderful treat regardless of what you actually play, and there are a number of holiday classics that can be performed, even by beginner students.

Make Memories

Although your concert will be remembered in the heart and minds of your audience, sometimes it’s nice to provide a small memento. With modern technology, it’s very easy to print out programs that the audience can keep. Have someone who’s familiar with MS Word build a program that includes the following items:

  • Names of the performers—if the group is large, you can use a small font to list the performers or simply include the name of the group.
  • The songs you’ll play in their performance order. (Don’t forget to include names of players who perform solos)
  • The time, date, and location of the concert.
  • Holiday decorations—holly borders, Santa hats, etc.

Get Others Involved

If this is something you’d like to do as a group effort, use social media to get the word out and reach other volunteers. Perhaps you know about a singing group or soloist who could be included in your holiday concert. Maybe you have some friends who don’t play instruments, but who’d like to join in and help somehow. The more the merrier!

It’s the season of giving and there’s nothing more meaningful than giving the gift of your time and talent. Music makes the world a better place and chances are there are facilities and organizations in your area where there are people who could use the holiday cheer.

And think of it as a gift to yourself, too. Not only will you gain important practice and performance skills, but you’ll bring some joy into the life of folks who may otherwise be isolated or lonely this holiday season. That’s something you can feel good about forever.

Sponsored by Thomastik-Infeld

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