In the last year, I’ve tried to be more deliberate in finding ways to be active in and bless the community in which I live. You can read about how my students blessed our community in the Sight Reading for Sight Saving Challenge! Last year, we took our Christmas recital to a local retirement village and got to see many residents thrilled to be around the children and music during the holiday season.

by ulrichkarljoho

When we bring our students and their music to a nursing home,  we not only bless the residents with Christmas music, but we also receive the blessing of giving to those who cannot seemingly give in return. I say seemingly because its amazing how quickly we forget the lifetime of gifts these residents have given to all of us-ourselves, our students, our country. How many of them have served in a war to establish or preserve freedom? How many of them have spoken out about women’s and minority’s rights? How many of them have tilled the soil and maintained the great land from which we get our food? How many of them have raised children that are productive members of society? How many of them have taught in schools, ministered in churches, cared for the sick, and simply blessed their neighbors with kindness? Of course, the truth is that these aged creations of God have given great gifts to enrich our community. Let’s thank them by giving back to them this Christmas!

I thought I’d share with you two little ideas we used last year that were a great success both in our summer patriotic program and our winter Christmas program at the nursing home. These little twists on a traditional program go a long way in connecting with an aged crowd:

Name that Tune

What person doesn’t like to see if they can guess the name of a tune? Residents of retirement and nursing home facilities love naming Christmas tunes, especially the older songs. You can easily do this without any prep. Just bring along your little “call bell” (I use my call bell in every group lesson I do!). After the student plays the piece, have them walk over to the call bell. Then, you can ask (in a very loud voice, remembering that many are hard of hearing), “Who knows the name of that song?” Someone will blurt it out and the student can ding the call bell several times to indicate that they answered correctly. You could even bring candy canes or other favors to give to the winners.

Sing-a-long

If you are performing Christmas music or patriotic pieces, residents love to sing along. But, remember that many of the arrangements take too much liberty with the tunes and are hard for residents to follow. So, be sure to carve out a litte time to just play a medley of Christmas tunes and have them sing the first verse with you. You as the teacher might wish to do this so you can follow the cues of the residents or lead effectively, or you might have any older student who can do this as well.

You Be the Judge

Since I always have a Christmas Cover Art Contest to see which student’s drawing will be on the program, we asked the residents of a retirement facility to be our judges last year! A week before the actual recital at the facility (we had a separate recital later in December at which we used the final program), I brought a display of my student’s entries. I placed the display in their dining room and put little pieces of paper and a box for voting. I included instructions on how to vote on the display. Then, on the day of the recital, one of the moms was in charge of counting the votes and announcing the winners. It was a great way to get the residents involved as unbiased judges and they had a great time doing it!

As we prepare for the Christmas season, I hope you will consider how you can give back to your community and especially to those who have already given much to the heritage of ourselves and our students.

Are there any fun activities that you do when you perform at a retirement or nursing home? I’d love to hear them!