“Music is a powerful tool. It connects people emotionally and physically,” Dan Beck, trustee of the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF), said recently.
Beck helps MPTF coordinate MusicianFest, a series of free musical performances put on for senior citizens. The program launched in 2015 with 500 shows across the nation. Another 500 were funded each subsequent year. This year, MPTF’s goal is to provide 1,000 free musical performances.
To showcase the impact of this initiative, MPTF sent camera crews to senior centers in New York, Louisiana and California. The Long Beach Senior Center was one of three centers featured in the finished film, which screened at the Center on Tuesday, June 25. Long Beach seniors clapped and cheered when they saw themselves on the big screen.
“At least 40% of our population is homeless or semi-homeless,” Long Beach Senior Center Director Elyse Garcia said. “These people have miserable things in their lives, but when they come to these shows, they are singing and happy.”
In addition to the screening, the seniors were treated to musical performances by some of the professional musicians from the film. Jamie Shaheen played the keyboard and sang, as did Kirk Wilson, and Cali Rose played the ukulele and sang. The musicians spoke fondly of their experience performing for senior citizens.
“It’s a blast working with seniors,” Shaheen said. “Just look at their faces, they’re always smiling!”
Shaheen, who said she loves inviting audience members to sing with her, did so several times during the show.
Long Beach senior Ann Martin was a professional singer when she was younger. The 77-year-old lit up when Shaheen handed her a microphone and asked her to join in the show.
Teresa Fulton and her partner Corey Bennett said they never miss the chance to watch Cali Rose play the ukulele. After a few numbers, the couple joined a conga line, dancing around the room to Rose’s songs.
“Music is so uplifting,” Rose said. “It brings people together and creates a sense of community. I like to play songs that are rhythmic, so my audience can clap, hum, sing, and dance.”
Harriet Tyson was on her feet for most of Rose’s performance, smiling and swaying. The 76-year-old said she has been coming to the Senior Center ever since she moved to Long Beach.
“Fifty years ago, I was a go-go dancer in Indiana,” Tyson explained. “I used to wear a two-piece bikini and dance on a bar.”
Tyson said she now suffers from the aches and pains of degenerative arthritis, but the pain goes away whenever she dances.
Beck, who attended the event, grinned as he watched the seniors connect with the music. He said the MPTF film did a good job capturing the emotions that result from the performances.
“This movie is a real love story between the musicians and seniors,” Beck commented.
Kirk Wilson said he had tears in his eyes when he watched the Long Beach seniors respond to the film.
“I feel blessed to be a part of all of this,” Wilson said. “It’s proof that music really touches lives.”
The film, titled “MusicianFest: Never Too Old,” can be seen at www.never2oldmusicfilm.com.