Tonight I am thinking about the joys of working with great people, specifically the wonderful hosts who’ve brought me in to perform at their homes, organizations, and facilities over the years.
I have been playing solo piano for shows and parties for over nine years now. I have worked with hundreds of different clients, from homeowners having a birthday or holiday party to country club staff and retirement home activity directors. Some of these experiences have been truly superb. It usually starts with an awesome host.
I can credit retirement homes with getting me off and running in the solo piano show niche. Over nine years ago, I responded to a Craigslist ad looking for someone to play at an Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care center in Hayward, California, where I lived. The activity coordinator was a woman named Georgi. She loved my playing and she herself was a performer. It felt like she really got my experience, and so I liked her immediately. I came in weekly to play for an audience of fifteen to twenty people. While these people were dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia and so weren’t all mentally present in the ways we expect, they all responded with delight to the music I played.
Georgi gave me a directory of retirement homes in the Bay Area and suggested that I call other places to perform. This one act of encouragement was a Godsend: the following year I played nearly 300 shows, mostly retirement homes, at dozens of centers throughout the Bay. I also continued playing at her center long after she had left it, partly, I think out of appreciation and loyalty.
One of the activity’s directors I called once I started branching out was a woman named Eleanor. Eleanor had been a choir director, and when I called her she blew me away with her enthusiasm, even a sort of reverence, when I told her I was a pianist. She invited me to her facility to meet me before I even performed. They fed me, and though this was “merely” a retirement home, I felt like royalty. For the actual show, she made programs and set it up like an official concert. I prepared accordingly, practicing my music for many hours like any high-profile gig. The performance went exceedingly well, and I did several shows with her. Her manner of making me feel welcome greatly helped my confidence at reaching out to more venues.
Last night I played at a private home outside of Sacramento, and yet again I had a great experience of being valued and appreciated. Carmen, the woman who hired me, went so far as to schedule the party around my availability! When I arrived, she immediately began introducing me to all of her guests, as if I was truly valued and important to her. During the party, she continually encouraged people to over by the piano… and sing! This worked, as people crowded around the piano throughout the evening to listen and to sing along. This was pure joy.
What all these hosts have in common is that they all communicated to me that my presence matters. I find that this is incredibly important to me. Even with piano teaching, I love working with students who I can tell really care about learning to play.. While I can pretty much always see something good about a playing for an audience, I do crave a feeling of significance when I go into a place to play. I really want to feel that what I am doing is making a difference, and that people are truly benefiting from it. Without this, I can easily get distressed or thrown off.
This trait may not always be a good thing, as there have been times when I have probably been too sensitive. And yet, it is something that I accept about myself. Because I know how wonderful it is to work with great people, I strive to find those situations where I can work with people with whom I can share the love and appreciation of music, and a respect and consideration for each other.
In conclusion, thank you to Georgi, Eleanor, Carmen, Lisa, Kevin, and all the other hosts who have made my performances so much more rewarding and satisfying over the years. You all help keep the adventure fun and worthwhile!
(p.s., thank you, Carmen, for sharing the photo I used for this blog post).