Some not-so-random thoughts on playing for free in nursing homes...
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Sun, 26 Mar 100 10:21:57 -0800
Subject: Some not-so-random thoughts on playing for free in nursing homes...
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From: "Catherine Britell" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Autoharp Mailing List" <email@example.com>
Sometimes things that seem so very simple and positive and sweet can have
a bit of a down side. Sort of like when you have kids release hundreds of
helium balloons with messages of peace and joy in them and then find
hundreds of ducks and geese dead from eating the remains of the balloons.
Isn't it wonderful to see the smiles and nods and receive the hugs of people
in nursing homes when you bless them with your music? Some of them anyway.
The ones for whom being nice to others is one of the beautiful things
they've done all their lives and still are capable of doing.
However, before you go off to a nursing home, to bring comfort and joy to
the dear souls there, I would implore you to do the following:
1. Make a tape of yourself doing your "gig" for AN HOUR.
2. Sit perfectly still FOR AN HOUR and listen to it, and see how you it
makes you feel. Better yet, have a friend duct tape you into a chair
and sit and listen to it once a week.
3. If you and YOUR LOVED ONES (who hopefully love you enough to be honest
with you) REALLY enjoy what you hear over and over again, then consider
taking your act to a nursing home
4. Always think about whom you are REALLY doing this for.
5. NEVER, EVER "perform" for someone who can't get away from you, unless
they SPECIFICALLY and LUCIDLY ask you to do so!
6. If YOU wouldn't PAY to hear the music you're about to deliver to
somebody, BE KIND, and FORBEAR.
To me, listening to someone make a bunch of mistakes on any instrument or
sing just a little off-key is the purest form of torture (unless of course
they're music students who are getting a little better every time AND paying
me). Yet, if I were a nursing home "audience", I would probably just tune
them out, and then tell them something nice at the end just to do whatever
positive thing was still in my personal repertoire. I have a pact with a
couple of musician friends that if (when) any of us become incapacitated,
the others will stand guard to keep off-key singers and beginning
instrumentalists from serenading us.
NOW, while I'm broaching uncomfortable subjects I may as well go all the
way. Did you know that almost all NURSING HOMES are FOR-PROFIT
institutions? Most of the time the owners make BIG money. Even some
churches often use nursing homes as a significant source of revenue. AND,
the people who accredit nursing homes require that each have a program for
patient entertainment, recreation therapy, out-trips...all those things
that enrich life..FOR WHICH THE PATIENTS get BILLED. And they budget for
these things. But, of course, if they can get something they can call
"recreational programming" for free, that much more money goes into the
pockets of the profit-takers. Is music and other arts programming important
for chronic care facilities? You're durned RIGHT it is! Would they ask
a nurse or doctor to come in and do their art/craft for free? Nope! Would
they ask the electric company to give them power for free? Nope. How about
telephone service? Cable TV? Laundry? They probably even pay for somebody
to come and clean the fish tanks. But do they pay musicians? Do they even
CONSIDER hiring professional musicians? Nope. Not when they can get
somebody for free....no matter about the quality of the programming. Is
music worth anything to them? NOT IF THEY CAN GET IT FOR FREEE!
Consider this: If you perform for free in a profit-taking enterprise of any
kind, you are de-valuing what you do and what every other musician does.
NOW, consider this: IF YOU'RE WORTH IT, demand union scale for your musical
work. If you're not worth it, then maybe you shouldn't be playing.
- Cathy (who, despite this diatribe, is leading a pick-up band of pro
musicians play for FREE at 7 AM next Sunday for a Kingdome Implosion Party
on the spinal cord injury unit of Harborview Medical Center...but we
know...it's for US!!!!).
© 2000 Peter Langston