Even during the shutdown, many Houston Symphony musicians find ways to continue engaging with the community. During normal times, musicians visit senior living and retirement communities to bring joy to the seniors and contribute to their overall well-being. As one senior center partner states, “music is therapeutic in many ways . . . These performances strongly impact [the seniors’] happiness, attitude, and spirit.”
Since the musicians cannot travel the Greater Houston area to perform at senior centers right now, Daniel Strba, viola, and his wife, Marcia Sterling—who is a violinist—created a special video performance for their audiences to enjoy safely, at a distance. Daniel and Marcia discussed this work:
Throughout your years of performing for senior centers, what have you observed is the benefit that music brings to the seniors?
As the saying goes, “Music hath charms . . .”! Performing at senior centers is a joyful experience for us and the residents. It does our hearts good to return them to the pleasant memories of their youth. We’ve noticed on more than one occasion that even non-communicative seniors with advanced dementia will suddenly join in as they remember the words to their favorite oldies.
How did you select the music to play in the video? Is it based on past experiences at senior centers?
We put together programs that include a wide variety of familiar music. We try to keep it light and joke with them to make it a fun and enriching experience.
Do you have any favorite memories from performing at senior centers in person?
After some 15 years of performing for seniors, we’re still always amazed when, at the end of our show, they rush the stage to express their gratitude. They’re simply exhilarated. We’ve met some extraordinary people over the years, like Golden Agers—people often in their upper 90s—who are still mentally and physically active. They’re from all walks of life: professional musicians and artists, business owners and entrepreneurs, cultivated in the arts, or just down-home folks. They all respond to our music with the same enthusiasm. One St. Patrick’s Day, we met a June Taylor dancer who worked on the old Jackie Gleason show. She got up and danced a jig at age 95!
What do you think the orchestra’s role is in contributing to the well-being of the city during this time?
Nothing lifts the spirits like music, and that’s what we’re here for. We feel that an arts organization like the Houston Symphony is the emotional heart of the city.
Top image: Marcia Sterling and Daniel Strba at a senior center visit, pre-shutdown.
Daniel and Marcia also perform in a group together: The Best Little Klezmer Band in Texas! Learn more and read their bios.