This is a rough outline of a workshop that we started but were unable to actually complete. I thought having this information available for musicians could help someone have a better overview of what it is like to perform in these facilities and be able to present an entertaining show for the residents. 

 Section 1

Introduction- Description of the Situation

30,000 nursing homes,  aging population, strong connection with music,  grew up singing and playing live music,  the residents’ lives are very tough, long days and nights,  lots of pain, loneliness, fear, isolation,  missing limbs,  feeding tubes,  very harsh environment

Discussion – students relate personal experience in nursing homes

The Music This needs to be updated
Roots of American Popular Music:  Ragtime, Swing, Big Bands, Dixieland, Jazz      rock 50's and 60s                       
Great Performers:  Scott Joplin, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elvis, van morrison, beatles, etc
Great Song Writers - George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Gus Kahn, dylan, beatles
This is today’s music also - Recent hits on It Had To Be You, Ain’t Misbehavin - lots of hists lady gaga, 
S  lots ofongs from classic movies - Casablanca, The Sound Of Music, The Wizard of Oz - always loved
Waltzes -  very popular and very soothing - update to country waltzes
Ethnic Music - Irish, Italian, Polish, Spanish - everyone loved everyone's music - a real melting pot
Discussion – songs the students know - – (recent hits, commercials), old songs they like

Music Therapy

Music has been shown to significantly improve life in a nursing home
Music is universal – it reaches everyone
Brings back the best memories of the residents
Lets them have a pleasant experience
Helps them make connections with other residents and staff – they talk about their experiences with a song or singer
Academic research
Mozart effect



Section  2

The Performance

            Entrance – be ready for what you’ll see
                  Greeting – say hello – some casual conversation – just like visiting a relative
                  Shows have 15-20 songs for one hour
                  Keep it lively
                  Typical opening sequence
                                    High energy opening
                                    Medium tempo

Repeat with minor variation depending on situation – sometimes the show needs to be mellow with just soothing music – like after 9-11 – calm things down

Perform each song to its fullest – key point

If you as a performer try to make each song special to the best of your ability, your effect on the audience is enhanced by the effort you put into the music.

The music gets through to almost everyone whether you see a reaction or not.

Also, by focusing on your performance, it helps you deal with the situation. By bringing all of your attention to the song, you’re not as affected by the surroundings.

Ask for suggestions on new songs. It brings the audience into the experience and will keep you learning new songs that they like.


Choose Songs

Each student can choose 15-20 songs from the list of favorite songs

Students get a CD with all of the songs in MIDI format to play on a computer

Students must determine their keys for each song they want


Listen to the song with the melody
Sing along
Sing without the melody    



Section 3

Performance Practice

Each student will perform a song that they have learned.

We will discuss the presentation.

                  Work on getting the right keys and tempos
                 These can be adjusted for each singer and can help them make the song easier to sing.

Continue until everyone has done as many songs as we can fit into the time.

Discuss intros and stories about songs.

Audience interaction.

How To Deal – Compassion Training

This is a tough environment.  Most people avoid going into long-term care facilities because the reality is too harsh.

The students in these workshops, on the other hand, are voluntarily giving of their time to bring some joy and happiness, some entertainment, to the (mostly) elder residents living in these facilities.

It is important to be prepared for what you are about to see … and to be open for how you are going to feel.  The Number One Key Point of this portion of the training is that every single resident that you will encounter used to be a real-live person, just like you.  They each deserve respect and honor for that position.  Talking about our feelings and our reactions to it all is intended to assist you in making your interaction with the residents moremeaningful … for them AND for you.

We’ll concentrate on general discussion and LOTS of questions and answers.



Section 4

Performance Practice

The same procedure as Section 3. Students will perform their songs and we will all critique and make suggestions.

Fine-tune the songs, intros and stories

The Business

Where’s the market
Data base listing
Long-term care facilities
Retirement communities
Mobile home parks
Senior centers


Brochure – say what you do and how you do it
Song list (so the administration knows what type of
music you are performing)
Develop client list – do short auditions or discounted shows
Letters of reference from satisfied clients


Send letter of introduction
Follow up phone call
Reminders every few months
You have to pursue the Activity Directors; they are
very busy and rarely will call you.
Don’t take rejection personally; it’s part of the business.


Be responsible – both the staff and the residents are
counting on you more than you know.
Be on time – or call if you’re running late; they get stood up a lot.
Talk to the folks – tell them about your day
Always remember – this ain’t Carnegie Hall


What it’s worth – priceless – but you can only get between $20 at the low end to $100 at the high end with most around $40-$50

Other means for income

This procedure works and has been effective for a number of performers. You can generally perform as many as 40 shows a month but that is really pushing the limit of your emotional well-being. At one point I was consistently performing over 40 shows a month but it was too much and I cut back to 25-30. The amount of income you can get will depend on your location and your ability to "hustle". There are many facilities and more are being built every day.