The "Pay it Forward" Volunteer band, a project developed by the Silver Lake Musicians Co-Op, is maybe the most unique band in all the world. Our band performs EXCLUSIVELY for the sick,lonely and elderly patients in nursing homes throughout Los Angeles County and the greater San Jose area. We begin operations in San Diego in December, are expanding to other cities in California, and will be operating in other states soon. This band of more than 180 musicians and singers, almost half of them of them professionals, operates as a ROTATING ROSTER so that musicians donate only the time that they can spare.
With so many BIG HEARTED musicians willing to fill in when needed, the Pay it Forward Band is able to consistently perform for at least two nursing homes a week (sometimes more). On special days we have fielded 4 or more bands. Our record is performing for TWELVE nursing homes in a single day. WHY do we feel it is necessary to perform for so many? Well, there are over 300 nursing homes in LA County alone!
Our weekly MISSION: to spread MUSICAL JOY in nursing/convalescent homes throughout the City and County of Los Angeles by performing concerts consisting of music specifically chosen for people age 70 and over. It is our goal to perform for every skilled nursing facility in the City, then the County, and then beyond our local boundaries. We are trying to form teams of local musicians to serve their own local communities YEAR-ROUND. An ongoing mission will be to EXPAND the program to other cities and counties throughout the state, then to other cities throughout U.S.
Our REASON for developing this program: We all know that life in a nursing home is difficult enough. After all, a nursing home is full of patients who don't really WANT to end their years in a skilled nursing facility. They would rather be independent or be with their families but are forced to live there due to their health. That is difficult enough.
Quite by accident, we discovered that the entertainment provided in most nursing homes is sadly lacking. --Sadly lacking considering the fact that these patients lived during the "GOLDEN AGE of MUSIC", the swing/big band era ( Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack and so many more, then the early days of Rock and Roll and R&B ). GOLDEN !!!
The industry’s position on the overall sad state of entertainment is based on economics. Nursing homes say that there is just not enough money to budget more for entertainment given the importance of other, more essential, needs.
Well, WE think that GOOD ENTERTAINMENT IS essential. Imagine YOUR life without it.
So, WE perform a FREE OF CHARGE "knock your socks off" program reminiscent of a USO show that might have been seen during WWII, Korea, or Vietnam. We actually integrate music from all those three eras into a nostalgic program crafted to remind our audience of better times, a time when they were young. For many of these patients their memories are really all they have left. Our show is designed to serve as a model to Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF's) …. THIS is the kind of entertainment you should be aiming for.
The METHOD: Our 60-70 minute show is performed for two different skilled nursing facilities on the weekend, and sometimes during the weekdays as well. The performing band is usually at least 6 musicians/vocalists and often swells to 10-12 performers.
We typically ask the nursing home Activities Director what music, specifically, the patients want to hear. Our pro musicians can play ANYTHING, but the requests we usually receive means a show full of Sinatra, Dean Martin, Doris Day, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Lena Horne, Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald and many more. Recently, due to popular demand, we have added more classic R&B and oldie rock. The audiences love the performances that we do... they are starving for REALLY GOOD entertainment, a hunger that most nursing homes don't really even try to feed.
The Short Term Goal: To bring JOY to people who really NEED that joy. BUT, healthcare professionals in nursing homes ALSO tell us that we are making a connection with Alzheimer`s patients through the this nostalgic music that helps patients connect with their past. There is visual evidence of these connections at almost every show the band does. It's a clinical fact that music can be excellent therapy. A nursing home Activities Director has said that a Pay it Forward performance is like music therapy on steroids. We even have people singing along who sometimes don’t recognize their own families any more. But the fundamental goal when we are in front of the audience is to get the patients' toes tapping, their hands clapping and their bodies swaying. We are trying to make patients/residents smile the BIGGEST smile that they have had a long, LONG time.
The Long Term Goal: To sustain a high level of entertainment in a growing number of communities throughout California, and beyond, by:
- Recruiting (through word of mouth, advertising and media activity) local musicians ( including the most talented students ) to continually expand the roster. More musicians means more shows.
- Recruiting civic organizations,charitable foundations,local/state/federal government agencies and concerned citizens to support the effort through grants, fund raising and operational activities.
- Recruiting and operating COMMUNITY bands made up of musicians serving their own communities
- Establishing a consortium of other musicians and entertainers doing their own thing into an organized effort wherever possible.
- Bringing the concept to other cities throughout the country.
ULTIMATELY the goal is to develop a TURNKEY system that thousands of skilled nursing facilities can implement with the goal of improving their entertainment. This program is already being tested by facilities in other states, with the realistic goal of increasing and improving entertainment volunteerism.
The "Pay it Forward Band" will never stop seeking musicians and other volunteers to join in this effort. We recruit every day of the year with hopes of someday fielding enough talent to adequately serve more and more of the 1.7 million skilled nursing facility patients in this country. WE think they deserve better than they are getting. If you are looking at this then consider JOINING US !!