Making a Living in Music Wellness: A Workshop for Professional Performers

"I ran across Jan's name on the internet and called her to schedule a phone consultation. The consultation was delightful, informative and encouraging. She listened to me, and came up with both specific tips and anecdotal tidbits from her experience that I have successfully applied to my own business. As a pioneer in the music wellness business, Jan has paved the way for all others in this field. Her personal style is confident, humorous and engaging, and she's willing to share her experiences and wisdom. I highly recommend her!"
- Janet Roper, violinist
Minneapolis, MN


In February of 2006 I gave my first workshop, entitled Making a Living in Music Wellness: A Workshop for Professional Performers at Saint Peter's Church, under the auspices of the International Women in Jazz. I was met with real enthusiasm and got great feedback from the attendants.

The class is designed to teach professional jazz musicians how to book themselves into healthcare facilities, and to design successful entertainment programs that will allow them to take advantage of the opportunities that exist in the new and growing field of music wellness.

Having negotiated the business for ten years and established a healthy clientele, I made mistakes and learned lessons that I now can share with my colleagues. This valuable information can make it possible for musicians like myself, who for decades could not earn a living performing jazz, to finally use their years of training and enjoy an active performance schedule, earn a nice paycheck, and at the same time know that they are making a big difference in people's lives.

Please pass this news along to any professional musicians you know who might be interested in private consultations, now available, or any other schools or organizations that might want to sponsor additional workshops, and invite them to contact me.

To view the International Women in Jazz website:

www.internationalwomeninjazz.com



Private Performance Itinerary
DatesEventLocation
September 2018
1solo2 - 3 pm
Ft. Tryon Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing
New York, NY
3duo
Hiroshi Yamazaki, piano
12 - 1pm
St. Vincent de Paul
Bronx, NY
3solo2 - 3pm
Harlem Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation
New York, NY
4solo11am - 12pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
Brooklyn, NY
4solo1 - 2pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
New York, NY
5solo1 - 2pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
Astoria, NY
7solo1 - 2pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
New York, NY
7solo10:30 - 11:30am
Andrus Retirement Community
Hastings-on-Hudson, NY
8duo
Hiroshi Yamazaki, piano
2 - 3pm
New Jewish Home
Bronx, NY
8solo11am - 12pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
Astoria, NY
9solo2 - 3pm
Fieldston Lodge Care Center
Bronx, NY
10solo10:30am - 12pm
New Jewish Home
Bronx, NY
10solo1 - 2pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
Brooklyn, NY
11solo1 - 2pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
New York, NY
12solo1 - 2pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
Astoria, NY
13duo
Hiroshi Yamazaki, piano
2 - 3pm
Fieldston Lodge Care Center
Bronx, NY
14solo11am - 12pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
New York, NY
15solo2:30 - 3:30pm
Harlem Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation
New York, NY
15solo1 - 2pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
Astoria, NY
16solo2 - 3pm
Bethel Nursing & Rehabilitation
Ossining, NY
17duo
Hiroshi Yamazaki, piano
4 - 5pm
Edge Hill Skilled Nursing
Stamford, CT
17solo1 - 2pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
Brooklyn, NY
18solo11am - 12pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
New York, NY
18solo1 - 2pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
Roslyn, NY
19duo
Hiroshi Yamazaki, piano
2:30 - 3:30pm
Martine Center
White Plains, NY
19solo11am - 12pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
Astoria, NY
20duo
Hiroshi Yamazaki, piano
12:30 - 1:30pm
Hugh Doyle Senior Center
New Rochelle, NY
21solo1 - 2pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
New York, NY
21solo11:15am - 12:15pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
Astoria, NY
21solo3 - 4pm
Harlem Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation
New York, NY
24solo11am - 12pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
Brooklyn, NY
24solo1 - 2pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
New York, NY
25solo1 - 2pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
Roslyn, NY
26solo1 - 2pm
Rosary Hill
Hawthorne, NY
26solo11am - 12pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
Astoria, NY
26solo3 - 4pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
Roslyn, NY
28solo1 - 2pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
New York, NY
29solo2 - 3pm
Ft. Tryon Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation
New York, NY
29solo12 - 1pm
private in-home visit: Beacon Eldercare
Astoria, NY
October 2018
4duo
Hiroshi Yamazaki, piano
4 - 5pm
Kensington
White Plains, NY
6solo1:30 - 3pm
Bronx Lebanon Special Care Center
Bronx, NY
7duo
Hiroshi Yamazaki, piano
3 - 4pm
The Osborne
Rye, NY
13duo
Hiroshi Yamazaki, piano
7 - 8pm
Kittay House
Bronx, NY
13solo2:30 - 3:30pm
Andrus Retirement Community
Hastings-on-Hudson, NY
14duo
Hiroshi Yamazaki, piano
2 - 3pm
Country House
Yorktown Heights, NY
15duo
Hiroshi Yamazaki, piano
4 - 5pm
Edge Hill Skilled Nursing
Stamford, CT
15solo2 - 3pm
Fieldston Lodge Care Center
Bronx, NY
17solo5:30 - 6:30pm
Atria Stamford
Stamford, CT
19duo
Hiroshi Yamazaki, piano
2 - 3pm
Fieldston Lodge Care Center
Bronx, NY
19solo
tbd
11am - 12pm
Center Light Greenburgh
White Plains, NY
20solo2 - 3pm
Ft. Tryon Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing
New York, NY
24solo1 - 2pm
Rosary Hill
Hawthorne, NY
25duo
Hiroshi Yamazaki, piano
2 - 3pm
Nathaniel Witherell
Greenwich, CT
28duo
Hiroshi Yamazaki, piano
3:30 - 4:30pm
Atria West 86th Street
New York, NY
31duo
Hiroshi Yamazaki, piano
2:30 - 3:30pm
Bethel Senior Living
Ossining, NY
November 2018
3solo2 - 3pm
Ft. Tryon Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing
New York, NY
4duo
Hiroshi Yamazaki, piano
4 - 5pm
The Kensington
White Plains, NY
4solo2 - 3pm
Fieldston Lodge Care Center
Bronx, NY
8duo
tbd
2:45 - 3:45pm
Providence Rest
Bronx, NY
11solo2 - 3pm
Bethel Nursing & Rehabilitation
Ossining, NY
13solo2 -3pm
Cedar Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center
Ossining, NY
15duo
Hiroshi Yamazaki, piano
2 - 3pm
Fieldston Lodge Care Center
Bronx, NY
17solo2 -3 pm
Ft. Tryon Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing
New York, NY
19duo
Hiroshi Yamazaki, piano
4 - 5pm
Edge Hill Skilled Nursing
Stamford, CTC
28solo1 - 2pm
Rosary Hill
Hawthorne, NY
30solo2 - 3pm
Rebekah Rehabilitation & Extended Care
Bronx, NY
December 2018
1solo2 - 3pm
Ft. Tryon Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing
New York, NY
5solo2 - 3pm
Fieldston Lodge Care Center
Bronx, NY
11duo
tbd
4 - 5PM
The Kensington
White Plains, NY
15solo2 - 3pm
Ft. Tryon Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing
New York, NY
17duo
tbd
4 - 5pm
Edge Hill Skilled Nursing
Stamford, CT
20duo
tbd
2 - 3pm
Nathaniel Witherell
Greenwich, CT
22duo
Hiroshi Yamazaki, piano
2 - 3pm
Fieldston Lodge Care Center
Bronx, NY
26solo1 - 2pm
Rosary Hill
Hawthorne, NY
28duo
tbd
2 - 3pm
Bronx Lebanon Special Care Center
Bronx, NY
29solo2 - 3pm
Ft. Tryon Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing
New York, NY


The May 2002 issue of the Jazz Education Journal, the publication of the International Association for Jazz Education, featured Jan's article "I Can't Give You Anything But Love: Jazz and the Eldercare Community" In it , Jan shares with others in the jazz community an unusual yet gratifying way to make a living as a jazz musician, while at the same time bringing a better quality of entertainment to our growing senior population.

-------------------------

I Can't Give You Anything But Love
Jan Leder - Take Note
May 2002 - Jazz Education Journal - IAJE


"As performers, we make it possible for the audience to experience through us the emotions of joy and love we are feeling -- and to see that the songs which have real significance to them continue to live through the expression of another generation of musicians."

I make sure I'm smiling as I walk into the room. After all, the whole point is to bring them joy. I see the usual looks of curiosity and doubt as to who I might be and why I might be there. Since the residents usually see doctors, nurses, dieticians, and orderlies wearing uniforms or badges that clearly identify them, I look out of place in my street clothes. Trying not to keep them in suspense too long: I put my flute to my lips and start with "It Had to Be You." It usually takes only a few bars before they recognize the song, see that I'm no threat to them, and start to smile a little. People who were yelling out stop yelling; grouchy residents get quiet; others sit up a little in their chairs; heads that were hanging down are lifted a little. Some are too "out of it" to smile, trapped in their physical pain or emotional grief; but as I stroll about the room, I look at each of them. I play right to them, letting them see me look them in the eye, one by one. By the end of the tune the magic has already begun to happen. The room is quieter. Something has changed.


Next is "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," and some of them begin to hum or sing along. Lyrics from long ago emerge from the lips of individuals capable of few other memories, some not even capable of speech! They're physically transforming in front of my eyes. Color comes into cheeks. Eyes begin to sparkle. A nurse glances at me with a knowing look. I walk over to one gentleman who is calling out to me: Rampal, Galway ; he begins to name classical flute pieces, speaking to me in a quiet and even tone. His visiting wife is next to him, holding his arm. After explaining to him that I don't have a classical repertoire, I play "Somewhere" from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story , thinking he might like that. When I finish, his wife-on the verge of tears-explains that her husband has Parkinson's disease and has not spoken to another person nor been lucid for months before this. She expresses a kind of gratitude I never see from patrons in restaurants or nightclubs where I also work. But the gratitude goes two ways: giving her and her husband this simple joy is more gratifying to me than any other work I've ever done.

"I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby" prompts several people to tap their hands along with the beat. I notice now that the new eyes I meet have been searching for me, some looking as if I am quenching a thirst they've had for a very long time. Now some of the smiles become wide grins; some people close their eyes and swoon to the music, looking as if they are in absolute ecstasy; some reach out to touch me. Many times they thank me, telling me I've made their day.

And some of the saddest and most ill residents-look as if they are just coming alive. Once I was asked to play a gospel tune at the bedside of a woman whom the nurses could not rouse. By the second tune, this patient returned to conscious awareness, sat up, and actually tapped in rhythm to my rendition of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." I was shocked at the power I then realized I had, the power to touch people deep inside their being, to transcend physical limitations and play a real part in relieving pain and stress, providing comfort and even healing.

Meaning in Music
As a professional musician, I offer something beyond mere entertainment. I'm exposing them to beauty, a quality to which they are not accustomed. By playing to them with the same musical integrity and intensity I would offer on the grand stage of the world's finer concert halls, I believe I am honoring them, saying that they are worthy of the best performance a professional performing artist can give. And they are worthy-they are our seniors.

When it's not easy to walk into a room and just start blowing my horn, I think of Sonny Rollins; and it gets easier! And while I don't improvise much on solo gigs, I utilize one of the primary lessons I learned from the great Lennie Tristano (with whom I studied for several years), the essence of all music is in each note. Playing a simple melody can be the most incredible of all musical experiences, especially when there's no rhythm section behind me or improvisational solo ahead. Everything has to happen in that melody-the melody, the rhythm, the harmony, and the spirit of the lyrics.

Melody brings me to the next most important aspect of what I do: repertoire. The most effective songs I play are the songs these seniors fell in love to, danced to, and that were popular when they were in their youthful prime. These include popular swing tunes, jazz ballads, Broadway and film tunes, and ethnic, holiday, and patriotic songs. The strength of these great melodies is so obvious and joyous that I understand the physical transformation I am seeing. It's the reason many of the tunes are still played by jazz musicians today.

Another key element is the sound of the flute, which is at once stimulating and soothing to the residents. While it is particularly compatible with the nursing home atmosphere, I believe almost any instrument can sound sweet and soothing when played with love. As performers, we make it possible for the audience to experience through us the emotions of joy and love we are feeling-and to see that the songs, which have real significance to them, continue to live through the expression of another generation of musicians.

A New Business
I came upon this business literally by accident, a small fender-bender on the day my marriage ended. Driving in the rain in my distress, with the children crying in the back seat, I tapped the rear fender of a woman who turned out to be Director of Activities at a nearby nursing home. She felt badly for my harrowing circumstances and suggested I volunteer once at her facility-and that if I liked it, I could come back for pay. When I declined by stating, "I don't play solo," she offered $100 for one hour-and I asked her when she'd like to schedule my first performance!

Activities Directors (or "Directors of Recreational Therapy") provide entertainment for their residents. Most musical performers they hire are entertainers with keyboards or guitars or accordions who usually lead sing-alongs, may have little or no musical training, and certainly don't play swinging jazz. To convince the directors to hire me, I must offer a good sales "rap" over the phone, fax a résumé, and perhaps phone several months of follow-up calls-several hours a day on the telephone. But once they hire me, they usually want me back.

As a jazz flutist who has no music degree and doesn't double on any other instrument, my employment options were always limited. Although I enjoy teaching one-on-one, I have never aspired to a career in education. The flute is still very associated with classical European music, so people don't generally think, "I'll hire a jazz ensemble led by a flute player for my next party." They first think jazz saxophone, maybe trumpet, and of course rhythm instruments. Yet this line of work has allowed me to survive as a single parent, raise my children, and-after 25 years-make my living exclusively as a musician at a time when many excellent professional musicians are not able to do so.

In addition to my strolling program, I perform stationary concerts for larger groups to celebrate monthly birthday parties and holidays, often prompting the attendees to get up and dance. More similar to the performances I might offer at a restaurant or private party, I use amplification and an accompanying guitarist or pianist, with lots of improvisation. I enjoy these as well and feel good about providing employment for several friends. I began to think how many jazz musicians could find a good source of income doing this kind of work and decided to do a little research.

Music Therapy
The American Music Therapy Association defines music therapy as the "prescribed use of music by a qualified person to effect positive changes in the psychological, physical, cognitive, or social functioning of individuals with health or educational problems." It goes on to say that these qualified people "assess emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills through music. [They] design music sessions for individuals and groups based on client needs using music improvisation, receptive music listening, song writing, lyric discussion, music and imagery, music performance and learning through music. [They] participate in interdisciplinary treatment planning, ongoing evaluation, and follow up."

Music therapy was first formally used to help veterans after World Wars I and II. "The patients' notable physical and emotional responses to music led the doctors and nurses to request the hiring of musicians by the hospitals. It was soon evident that the hospital musician needs some prior training before entering the facility, and so the demand grew for a college curriculum." Predecessors to the American Music Therapy Association include the National Association for Music Therapy (founded in 1950) and the American Association for Music Therapy (founded in 1971). The AMTA is "committed to the advancement of education, training, professional standards, credentials, and research in support of the music therapy profession."

Qualified music therapists spend many years in school and do serious clinical training so as to properly assess the patient, use music in rehabilitation and pain management, and assess the changes brought upon by music. Usually music therapy sessions are interactive, with the music therapist concerned with monitoring cognition and physical motion and applying the responses to the individual's overall medical condition and treatment. This is largely different from my role solely as a musician; I think of the residents as my audience and require only that they listen. All I want is to see them smile and perk up a little, to know I brought some joy to their lives.

It occurs to me that if the eldercare community somehow got together with the jazz community, we could provide a very valuable service to our seniors and make a big difference to many people. If the joy that I myself bring to so many could be multiplied on a grand scale, the healing power and loving spirit of music and musicians will be multiplied as well. In return, many, many musicians could work more steadily in their chosen field and perhaps struggle less to make a living in music.

A Final Thought
I'm writing this in order to share my discovery. How many musicians could earn a good living doing what they love and at the same time provide a great service to a population that can benefit so much from what we do? This work has been intensely gratifying to me, and I'm sure it would be to others as well. I leave the facilities feeling young, strong, healthy, and as if I've done something important and effective with my time; touching people and making them smile are precisely why many of us choose to be performers. And I can earn in one hour at a nursing home or assisted-living facility what it takes all night to make in a jazz club or restaurant, so I don't have to do "other" work. Since most of my performances are in the daytime, I can be home after school for my children and still work all my other gigs at festivals, museums, libraries, and other public and private venues. Not only have I brought joy to people in desperate need of it, but also my music and musicianship have grown tremendously as a result of the number and nature of my performances. I've realized one of my lifelong dreams-to make my living as a musician.

But there's more to consider. Perhaps America and some other countries inadvertently overlook their seniors while focusing on their children, for whom arts programs sometimes abound. As our population ages and baby boomers' parents begin to need eldercare, we begin to examine caring for our parents and planning for our own later years. When I look at my experience and realize the numbers of people who live in nursing and assisted-living facilities, I am truly amazed. In a 20-mile radius of my home in a suburb of New York City there are perhaps 100 nursing homes, most with hundreds of residents. It can be scary, intimidating, and depressing to face the reality I see almost daily: room after room filled with dozens of elderly men and women sitting in their wheelchairs and mobile beds, some hooked up to intravenous fluids or oxygen machines, some unable to leave their rooms, suffering unthinkable physical pain and trapped in broken-down bodies that don't work anymore.

Then I remind myself these people have successfully survived unimaginable hardships in their lives. Now they face pain and illness daily, yet they go on. How ironic that this is their reward. We should be honoring them! It has made me think carefully about life and what is truly valuable. Being here is valuable. Connecting with other human beings is valuable. Dignity is valuable. How simply and wonderfully we musicians, hungry ourselves for an audience, can make such a difference for so many people while doing what we love to do.

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