At the Helm: Using talents to help others

Written by Scott Graves, Pilot staff writer February 26, 2011 04:00 am

There’s an amazing number of musically-talented people in Curry County, and most of them have great big hearts.

Did you know that nearly every week local musicians visit nursing care facilities up and down the coast, bringing the joy of music to residents?

One group of musicians,  led by multi-instrumentalist and singer Carl Rovainen, makes weekly stops at Good Samaritan-Curry Village, Ocean Park, Sea View Senior Living Community and the Chetco Activity Center. He’s been doing so for nearly eight years.

“It’s a very satisfying experience,” said Carl, who sings folk songs and plays banjo and fiddle. “If you’re going to volunteer, this is one of the most fun things you can do.”

Earlier this week, Carl and several musicians made their weekly stop at Ocean Park,  an Alzheimer’s facility in Brookings.

“If we play music and just wake them up enough that they sing along, that’s great,” Carl said. “One time, we were playing “You Are My Sunshine’ and I saw one of the patients mouthing the words.”

The residents, he said, look forward to the music. “And I do, too. I’ll keep doing it for as long as I can, and as long as we’re wanted.”

Brookings pianist Nina Paulson has been playing music at Good Sam for six years.

“I love it! I love the people!” Paulsen said. “They’re in wheelchairs, so they’re a captive audience. They’re always looking forward to my visits, and that makes me feel good.”

Paulsen decided to volunteer at care facilities after attending a grief meeting following a friend’s death years ago.

“Someone suggested that volunteering was a good way to get over the grief, so I started going to Good Sam,” she said. “I thought I would quit after a while, but I’m still doing it after six years!”

Retired music teacher and jazz musician Jerry Moffit has been playing piano every Monday at Good Sam for five years.

“I figured I had been blessed with the ability to play music and I wanted to give something back,” Moffit said. “I really enjoy it, and the people look forward it.”

Moffit recalled a “wow!” moment when he was playing one of his favorite songs, “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

“I was playing that song when I started hearing a small squeaking voice singing along. It was one of the patients, but I don’t know which one. The voice dropped out in the middle of the song but then, at the very end, I heard that squeaking voice again, singing ‘I’ll Be Seeing You.’ It brought tears to my eyes.”

Music is magic, and local musicians are weaving their aural spells all over town.

When I first began playing music publicly as a percussionist, I did so with Carl’s group at Good Samaritan and the Chetco Activity Center. It was a good experience and I’ve since gone on to improve my skills and perform with other musicians at local festivals, art walks and community concerts.

However, I hadn’t performed at a local care facility for the last two years. That changed earlier this week, when I performed at Good Sam as the new drummer for the band Spectrum Sound. I was thoroughly enjoying myself and, at one point during a song, I looked up from the drums to see several elderly residents tapping their feet or swaying to the music. That to me, as it is to many musicians, is the best reason for playing music.