By Aylin Tanriverdi
Musical Postcards for Seniors brings joy to seniors, through music, during these unprecedented times. Studies have shown that music has many positive effects on health, including neurological, cardiovascular, and psychological benefits. It can improve memory and immune functioning. It can also reduce anxiety and pain. Music lifts spirits and unites people during a time of self-isolation and separation. In Musical Postcards for Seniors, we send weekly music concerts (aka “musical postcards”) via YouTube videos created by students.
I was inspired to launch this initiative after seeing the comfort that music brought my grandparents during the pandemic. Normally, I only get to see my grandparents once a year because they live far away, but this year, due to the pandemic, we have not been able to reunite in person. Rather, we are trying to stay connected through video calls and music. My grandfather, in particular, loves listening to classical music. When we visited him in previous years, I remember he was listening to Bolero, Rodrigo’s guitar concerto, you name it. He is actually the one who asked me to play my first virtual mini-guitar concert!
What started as one concert for him turned into a weekly concert for all of my grandparents. During the pandemic, music helped us cope with the stress of uncertainty. It was a gift that brought us together even when we were thousands of miles apart. After a while, I started to think that other seniors needed the gift of music and the connection it can bring. So, when I heard about the nursing home crisis on the news, I knew it was time to reach out. Orpheus supported this idea, and we worked to bring students together to launch Musical Postcards for Seniors. As of July 2020, we have reached 758 nursing homes. These nursing homes include 26 states in the United States, 4 provinces in Canada, and 3 states in Australia.
Our initiative has been rewarding in many ways. As an organizer, seeing the positive response from students and teachers made another special kind of connection. Friends, brothers, sisters, and musicians of all ages were eager to share their music with strangers in isolation. Some students even composed their own pieces! With the help of Mr. Klondike and the directors, we worked as a team to put this together. Students who wouldn't otherwise practice and record pieces liked the cause, and went out of their way to dress up, practice, and record a huge number of pieces! The project brought out the best in everyone involved.
Our impact has gone beyond the Orpheus community Music has proven to be a vehicle to connect people globally. It is the universal form of expression that brings us hope and helps us cope with uncertainty. Whether it be from balconies in Italy, Facebook live streams from popular artists, or videos for seniors created by Orpheus students. During these times of uncertainty, we wanted to spread joy to seniors and show that we care, and I think we achieved that. Even if we can't see the seniors, we can feel that they are listening to our music. The response from nursing home residents and staff has been overwhelmingly positive: we used to reach out to them, and now they are reaching out to us for even more videos! One of our partner nursing homes in Austin, Overture Arboretum, even reached out to us and asked if we could perform live concerts through Zoom.
We would love to reach more nursing homes and help to grow this initiative. If someone is in a nursing home or has friends/family in a nursing home and would like to receive Musical Postcards, please reach out to us via email at email@example.com. In the email, please let us know the name of the facility and the email of the activity director (if available).
More coverage of this initiative:
Austin high schooler creates virtual concerts for nursing homes