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Philharmonic music program targets seniors

Northeast Pennsylvania Philharmonic musicians Leah Valenches, left, on violin, and Peter Brubaker, right, on cello, play ragtime for residents of Highland Manor in Exeter.
Kat Bolus
/
WVIA News
Northeast Pennsylvania Philharmonic musicians Leah Valenches, left, on violin, and Peter Brubaker, right, on cello, play ragtime for residents of Highland Manor in Exeter.

Small groups of musicians from the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic are performing at nursing homes and assisted living centers throughout the region.

"We've had people come up to us and share their own stories, relating to music," said musician Leah Valenches. "The greatest thing is that people have said to us that they feel so valued, that they haven't been forgotten as part of society, that our community is reaching out and presenting these programs to them."

The Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic received two grants for the senior citizen program; one from the Scranton Area Foundation for Lackawanna County and a second from Temple B'Nai B'Rith for Luzerne County.

At Highland Manor in Exeter on a Friday afternoon, Valenches, who plays violin with the philharmonic, and Peter Brubaker, who plays cello, set up two music stands and a bench at the front of the dining room. They’ve been playing together for 25 years. The concert on Friday, March 31, was the third show since the Philharmonic received the grants.

Around 30 residents, some with their families, sat and took in classical tunes from Mozart and Beethoven. The musicians played ragtime and modern music from the Beatles, Van Morrison and Louis Armstrong.

The Philharmonic does outreach programs for elementary, high school and college students, but somehow senior citizens were not on that list, said Nancy Sanderson, executive director.

“What we have discovered going out there is that the senior citizens keep saying how happy they are that ... they're on the priority list of our outreach and how meaningful it is to them," she said.

The musicians played for 45 minutes on Friday, March 31. They stopped in between songs to give the crowd some insight into the music.

The shows are beneficial for both the residents and the musicians, said Sanderson.

“Every musician who has done this program has written to me afterwards and said how wonderful it was and how they really enjoyed interacting with the audience members," she said.

During a previous show, residents sang along while they were playing.

“It was actually so loud that we couldn’t hear each other play because there was such great participation, which was really, really heartwarming," said Valenches.

Brubaker said the older generations tend to still enjoy classical music and many of them don't often have the opportunity to get out and see the philharmonic play.

"It's a chance for them and also for us to play for people who really appreciate it," he said.

After the concert was over, a resident of Highland Manor was wheeling back to her room. She yelled out “that was wonderful.”

For more details, visit nepaphil.org.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.

You can email Kat at katbolus@wvia.org