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Getting nursing home gigs

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GUEST,Marion 24 Jul 02 - 01:09 PM
wilco 24 Jul 02 - 01:44 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 24 Jul 02 - 02:35 PM
Sorcha 24 Jul 02 - 02:40 PM
Mooh 24 Jul 02 - 03:39 PM
GUEST,Les B. 24 Jul 02 - 03:50 PM
ollaimh 24 Jul 02 - 04:07 PM
Genie 24 Jul 02 - 04:34 PM
GUEST,Hille 24 Jul 02 - 06:50 PM
Genie 24 Jul 02 - 07:22 PM
Dave Bryant 25 Jul 02 - 07:14 AM
Pied Piper 25 Jul 02 - 07:42 AM
open mike 26 Jul 02 - 12:53 AM
Genie 26 Jul 02 - 02:37 AM
GUEST,Les B. 26 Jul 02 - 06:41 PM
Mooh 26 Jul 02 - 08:01 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 26 Jul 02 - 09:05 PM
Melani 27 Jul 02 - 12:45 AM
musicmick 27 Jul 02 - 01:18 AM
Marion 27 Jul 02 - 01:56 AM
Genie 27 Jul 02 - 02:12 AM
M.Ted 27 Jul 02 - 04:17 PM
Marion 27 Jul 02 - 10:29 PM
Genie 28 Jul 02 - 12:47 AM
GUEST,Wa Ban Zhou 28 Jul 02 - 01:15 AM
musicmick 28 Jul 02 - 01:42 AM
Genie 28 Jul 02 - 02:44 AM
musicmick 28 Jul 02 - 03:50 AM
Genie 28 Jul 02 - 04:34 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 28 Jul 02 - 09:00 AM
pavane 28 Jul 02 - 01:05 PM
musicmick 28 Jul 02 - 06:50 PM
Ferrara 28 Jul 02 - 07:15 PM
Genie 28 Jul 02 - 10:04 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 28 Jul 02 - 11:13 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 29 Jul 02 - 01:06 AM
musicmick 29 Jul 02 - 01:57 AM
Genie 29 Jul 02 - 02:48 AM
Marion 29 Jul 02 - 03:25 AM
Genie 29 Jul 02 - 03:39 AM
Marion 29 Jul 02 - 03:40 AM
Genie 29 Jul 02 - 04:21 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 29 Jul 02 - 07:30 AM
M.Ted 29 Jul 02 - 03:18 PM
Genie 29 Jul 02 - 08:29 PM
musicmick 29 Jul 02 - 11:14 PM
Genie 30 Jul 02 - 01:14 AM
Ferrara 30 Jul 02 - 01:55 AM
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Marion 30 Jul 02 - 02:51 AM
Genie 30 Jul 02 - 04:47 AM
musicmick 30 Jul 02 - 03:17 PM
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Genie 30 Jul 02 - 11:15 PM
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Genie 31 Jul 02 - 01:20 AM
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Marion 01 Aug 02 - 02:13 AM
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Genie 02 Aug 02 - 02:40 AM
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Marion 03 Aug 02 - 12:09 AM
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Genie 03 Aug 02 - 02:48 AM
GUEST,Marion 08 Aug 02 - 11:17 AM
Genie 08 Aug 02 - 02:36 PM
musicmick 08 Aug 02 - 10:38 PM
Ferrara 08 Aug 02 - 10:47 PM
Ferrara 08 Aug 02 - 10:51 PM
M.Ted 08 Aug 02 - 11:10 PM
Genie 09 Aug 02 - 12:49 AM
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Marion 09 Aug 02 - 03:22 PM
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Genie 10 Aug 02 - 01:56 PM
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Marion 15 Aug 02 - 03:23 PM
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Genie 17 Sep 02 - 05:23 PM
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Subject: Getting nursing home gigs
From: GUEST,Marion
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 01:09 PM

Hello all. I've recently teamed up with a couple of people to work up a repertoire that would be good for nursing homes. We have a few voices, fiddle, guitar, and piano, and we're doing some folk and country, some "golden oldies" (The Band Played On, Five Foot Two, Bicycle Built for Two etc.), and some showtunes.

I'm looking for advice on how to find work. Do you need the same kind of "press kit" materials that you would need for other gigs? Do you just write to every nursing home in the city, or do they look for acts through agents or the unions or elsewhere? Do you just say "This is our kind of show, hire us whenever," or do you tend to say "we'd like to come do a Christmas show (or St. Patrick's, or Mother's Day, or whatever's coming up)"?

I'd also like hear opinions on whether or not volunteering (as musicians) is likely to turn into paid gigs. It seems like it might be a good way to introduce ourselves and show that we've got an appropriate repertoire, but at the same time, I've often heard that it's difficult to increase your price after playing for little or for free. I'm thinking maybe we could volunteer individually to get known by the activities staff, but only play together for paid concerts. Sound like a good marketing plan?

Thanks, Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: wilco
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 01:44 PM

Gigs in nursing homes, group homes, adult day care programs, and church programs are easy to get. just call and ask. Mail the activities co-ordinator your lists of songs. I always ask if there is anything special that the program should have ( religious, holidays, seasonal, etc). Sometimes, I get an honorarium for the group from some larger organizations. The schools systems, public and private) also like to get in historical programs that can tie-into their cirriculum.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 02:35 PM

I've probably played several hundred times at nursing homes over a period of close to forty years. I've never been paid or received an honorarium. From my experience, most nursing homes don't have a budget for that, except maybe on a special occasion. Never having had to ask for pay though, I'm not really sure. If you can afford to play for nothing, it's the highest paying job I know.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Sorcha
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 02:40 PM

We don't get paid for residential homes, but it's fun and the residents love it. Good practice too. If you can keep the Alzheimers happy you can play anywhere!


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Mooh
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 03:39 PM

I rarely gig for free, but nursing homes are the exception. In my little corner of the world there would be no live entertainment in such homes if it had to be paid, so I do what I feel is the right thing to do. I currently team up with a fiddler and play our usual old-time, celtic, swing and other tunes and supplement the lot with various tunes from fake books. We always have an appreciative and attentive audience, which is payment enough. (Sometimes I even feel a little selfish because I really WANT to play for these folks.)

I hope if someday I have to live in a nursing home that someone will play for me.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 03:50 PM

From here in the American west, Jerry's perspective is spot on. I've played with various groups in health care homes for 20 years and never been paid (except with smiles). And the activities directors are always glad to have you call. In fact sometimes they call you.

Your idea of putting together a set list of golden oldies is good - we try to do as many from their prime time of life as we can remember.

Make sure everyone in your group understands this. One time a few of us got a loose acoustic group together but hadn't played with one of the guys, although we knew by reputation he was a guitarist.

We all took turns doing songs; Red Wing, Springtime in the Rockies, Golden Slippers, etc. When his turn came, the new guy absolutely glazed over the eyes of the little old lady in the front row wheelchair by vocally (and physically) leaping into some wild rock & roll song about "I wanna do yuh mama.." Even the rest of the band was shocked. He hadn't a clue about how inappropriate it was. After that we discussed a little more carefully what the next tune was going to be !


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: ollaimh
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 04:07 PM

i've played a few dozen nursing home gigs. usually i play harp and sing old irish and scottish songs with a few maritimes ones as well. it goes over great. many more of the patrons know the lyrics than at a normal celtic gig and although you see some veryill people, many are both gratefull and enthusiastic.

it's more women than men--i guess the statistics are right that women live longer.

the pay is also good and they don't want you at prime hours. tuesday or wednesday afternoon is when i usually play and i'm not likely to make much money then anywhere else. i do usually take one other instrument and alternate it to add a little spice, like mandolin, cittern, bouzouki, or guitar. and occasionally fiddle.

i enjoy the gigs. i got them by being seen busking but i've never solocited a nursing home gig, but i suspect if you just phone up and perhaps send a tape it shouldn't be too hard.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 04:34 PM

Several of us who do music for senior facilties (not all of which are nursing homes) discussed this issue in this thread.

For now, just let me say that the vast majority of senior residential facilities do have a budget for hiring entertainers and music therapists (licensed or not). Many even pay some of the pet therapy and art therapy folks. The best deal is probably to send a flyer to all the facilities in your area. The Yellow Pages is a good place to start.

Personally, I feel if you are going to do an occasional gig, at your own convenience, and not spend a lot of time developing a repertoire geared toward this population, it's fine to do it as a charitable thing. I don't get paid for singing in my church choir or doing solos there, either. But please don't take the view that musicians who devote a lot of time and work --and, yes, money--to providing the kind of music that senior facilities seek should provide their services for nothing, when the facility pays for just about every other kind of service they use.

Remember that not all senior facilities are nonprofits, and some nonprofit facilities have bigger per capita budgets than some for-profit facilities have. The nursing-convalescent-retirement home industry is a huge and growing one, and most of it is run as a business.

I've been told by folks in that industry that it's hard to switch from being a volunteer to being a paid musician, and my own experience has backed up that view. I do use a sliding scale, and for some places I play for very little. But it seems to be the ones who pay me the least who value my services the least (are most likely to cancel me at the last minute or drag their feet the most on payment or play hard to get when it comes to booking).

One bit of advice I'd add re playlists: old people get younger every year. I mean that many of today's geriatric residents were young adults in the 1930s and 1940s. The really old ones and those with advanced Alzheimer's do like Bicycle Built for Two and My Wild Irish Rose, but the folks in their 80s are more likely to want "It Had to Be You," "Edelweiss," songs from the WWII era, etc. I've been doing this kind of thing since the early 1980s, and I keep having to add more and more popular music from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, due to residents' requests.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: GUEST,Hille
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 06:50 PM

Here on the South Coast Uk it's nursing home city - and the nursing homes here do have budgets for entertainments. (Actually, I've just come home from a musical recreation of the 'Golden Years of Radio' from pre-War to early '50s that's played in over 800 nursing and residential homes in the South East)

You could try contacting through the Social Services in your area - good nursing should be registered and also voluntary groups (we have a huge voluntary organisation here that organises home visits, respite care, etc, etc also day centres) Local community centres here at least have a big support network for older members of our communities.

From what I've seen this evening (not that I'm expert now!) outreach and sustainable programmes of interactive entertainment are definitely in demand - we have a few homes here that are introducing memories rooms with items familiar from people's youth - really important for stimulation and especially where long term has won out over short term memory.

The whole event this evening now was developed into a series of repertoire for different occasions and is playing for a week at the D Day Museum in Portsmouth and also can educationally tailored for GCSE and A level DRama and Theatrical Studies.

So - go for it!!


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 07:22 PM

Marion, one thing I didn't mention re your being paid for gigs at nursing and retirement homes is that most facilities have restricted budgets. Here in the NW, $50 is fairly typical pay for a 1-hour program in the more upscale facilities, though they sometimes will pay $60 to $75. They do hire bands for New Year's Eve and other special occasions, and they pay more, but they don't hire you as often, and even then, I'd be surprised if they pay much more than $150 to $250 for the whole band. That may be why a lot of groups (Old Time Fiddlers and the Boeing Chorus) perform as volunteers--few facilities can pay a group of 4 or more enough for it to make sense for them to do it for $.

One thing you can always do is, when you first contact the activity director of a facility, just ask if they hire people to do music. Some will say they're volunteer only, but a lot will say, yes, they do hire. Unless they have all their time slots taken by regulars, they'll probably try you out. Some will ask for an audition. In those cases, I've learned to give them a tape instead. There's too much chance that the person who is in charge when you audition won't be there a month or two later, and you'll be back to square one.

Good luck with it!

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 25 Jul 02 - 07:14 AM

I think that gigs in Old Folks Homes might be a bit worrying for many of us older 'Catters - what if they won't let us out at the end of the gig !

I can imagine a big nursing assistant saying "Come along Mr Bryant, it's time for your cocoa and bed - what you don't want to go - I'll call the doctor and he'll give you a shot to make you feel better !"

I'm also a bit aprehensive about what WE might have to endure when we're on the other end of these gigs. Can you imagine having to put up with the sort of performer who one tries to leave off the floor-singer's list performing Eminem........


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Pied Piper
Date: 25 Jul 02 - 07:42 AM

I've played pipes to old folks (or should it be the chronologically challenged) quite a few times in the NW UK and it usually goes down well. Lots of men in the north were conscripted into Scottish regiments in W.W.II. You have to be a bit careful about song lyrics though. I once played with a band at a stroke club and we did a version of "Yesterday"(suddenly I'm not half the man I used too be). All the best PP.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: open mike
Date: 26 Jul 02 - 12:53 AM

i did play for an alzheimer's facility once where there was a gate with a number key pad lock in order to get out you had to perform simple math problems according to a formula posted by the gate--i got the wrong answer and needed help getting out! ouch! nothing like a captive audience... i just got 2 messages today about 2 rest homes who were inquiring about my "services" to entertain the residents...it will be cool in there on those hot august days when i have scheduled performances....usually mornings the folks are more alert.....that seems to be the best time. that and holidays as even if you don't get money, there might be some goodies-- cake, etc....to celebrate with!! the levels of care are different from different faciclties.. some are independant living places where the people are more "with it" some times you can inspire a reaction from the "clients" or residents at assisted living facility, but get used to looking out at a sea of nodding heads and closed eyes if you are performiong for an audience in a "nursing" home, as some have very short attention spans, and many may fall asleep in their wheel chairs. be prepared to stay optimistic and "up"! sometimes a tapping toe may bethe most energetic respomseaperson can give--be careful if they try to get up and do a jig- it may be dangerous to their health!!


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 26 Jul 02 - 02:37 AM

Actually, PP, it's "persons of high chronological achievement." *G*

I've met activity directors who were overly vigilant about song lyrics that referred to death, suffering, etc. For the most part, this is silly -- no one is more aware of and, generally, more accepting of their own mortality than folks who live with it daily. Some of the most pointed humor about death and physical/mental decline comes from the seniors themselves (cf. "Get Up And Go."). Still, I don't think songs like "The Cruel Mother," "Edward," and Tom Lehrer's "Irish Ballad" would go over well at most nursing homes and retirement facilities!

Open Mike, re it being "cool in gthere on those hot august days...," don't count on it! One of the occupational hazards of playing in nursing homes is hot flashes--even if you're neither female nor menopausal! The frail elderly do tend to get cold when younger folks think it's too warm. Moreover, a lot of staff members have no common sense about dealing with this. If one person--dressed in shirt sleeves in December-- complains, they'll close windows, turn off fans, and turn up the heat, sometimes till it's 78 to 80 degrees in the room. ( I lost a client once because a kitchen staffer decided to verbally arm-wrestle with me when I tried to get the activity director [who had hired me and was in charge of the program] to helpe me cool off an 80 degree dining room before a program started. [The room had been closed off, with all the lights on, while the rest of the building was much cooler.] She was so convinced that the residents WOULD complain if the room was "cold" that she turned my attempts to modulate the temperature a bit into a major battle--which left the AD mad at me, even though she agreed that 74 or 75 would have been a more reasonable temperature.
If you can perform with normal energy when it's really hot and humid, you'll do fine in nursing homes. I can't. So I've started carrying a portable fan with me year round.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 26 Jul 02 - 06:41 PM

I've always been a bit leary about doing "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" with its lines like...

"..When I saw that hearse come rollin'
for to carry my mother away

Especially since, as noted above, the majority of people in old folks homes are women!

I've never had an activities director complain about it though ?!?


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Mooh
Date: 26 Jul 02 - 08:01 PM

In my part of the world homes are underfunded whether they be public or private, unless they're wealthy private homes, but there's few of those. The only payment at the one I play semi-regularly is sincere thanks and an invitation to their annual volunteer appreciation dinner (which is actually paid for by the County, out of a different pot of money than the home itself, I'm told). I've been led to believe that things will loosen up soon, so that there will be some limited payment. I really like these gigs, so string and gas money would help.

I've been thinking about a corporate or private sponsor to fund continueing musical entertainment. Any comments?

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 26 Jul 02 - 09:05 PM

I think that it's an excellent idea, Mooh! Especially these days when corporations are seen as crooked, dishonest, greedy, money-grubbing *&#@**%. You'd have to make sure that they paid more than it is worth though. They're not used to paying true value. :-)

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Melani
Date: 27 Jul 02 - 12:45 AM

The youth group of my church used to play nursing homes, doing the main popular folk stuff of the '60's, including a guy who did a lot of Hoyt Axton stuff. It's how I learned to play guitar. The only problem was that we were a church group and played on Sunday afternoons, so they often thought we were going to do a worship service. Instead they got Jim doing "Greenback Dollar."


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: musicmick
Date: 27 Jul 02 - 01:18 AM

Nursing homes DO have a budget for entertainment. They all do, no matter what they tell you. I have been performing at these facilities for decades and I am paid for my work, as are every other service provider that the nursing home uses. They pay their electricians, their plumbers, their therapists, their nursing staffs and their utilities. My service is no less valuable or worthy. I suggest that your service should be seen as having real value and that you stop selling yourselves and your performances short. If you do music for pleasure, do as you will but if you have aspirations of singing for money, you must not give away the product that you are trying to sell. It's just bad business. I am not concerned that your playing for free costs me jobs or lowers my fees. I get enough work at the fees that are truely standard in the industry (Generally, in the $85 to $150 range, more for holidays). Obviously, the longer you stay in the field the better known you become and the fees reflect reputation. As Mooh said, we are covering the hows and wheres of nursing home jobs in a seperate thread, but I wanted to make one thing very, very clear. THEY HAVE THE BUDGET. THEY HAVE THE MONEY. OTHER PERFORMERS ARE GETTING PAID. LOTS OF OTHER PERFORMERS. (Names on request)


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 27 Jul 02 - 01:56 AM

Thanks for your input all, I'm reading this carefully. I will return with more time and more questions soon.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 27 Jul 02 - 02:12 AM

Mooh, I, too, have wondered if there are grants to be had for providing music to schools, hospitals, and nursing homes, and how to go about getting them. Anyone have any info on this?

Musicmic, HEAR, HEAR!!


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: M.Ted
Date: 27 Jul 02 - 04:17 PM

Program grants are available, but you have to keep in mind that you have create a program that is important to the grantor--it is their money. after all--


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 27 Jul 02 - 10:29 PM

Some questions:

1. What kind of senior facilities are there besides nursing homes that might hire bands? Are hospitals, retirement communities, or church programs likely possibilities?

2. When you send a promo package around to activity directors to introduce yourself, what exactly do you send? Are pictures and CDs necessary?

3. I assume that senior facilities would usually have a PA system, right? Would it be appropriate to have differential rates according to whether or not they provide the sound?

4. Musicmic said: "If you do music for pleasure, do as you will but if you have aspirations of singing for money, you must not give away the product that you are trying to sell. It's just bad business." What do you think of my idea of playing for free as individuals but asking for money to play as a band? Good business?

Thanks, Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 28 Jul 02 - 12:47 AM

MTed, (...but you have to keep in mind that you have create a program that is important to the grantor--it is their money. after all...)  Duh...
(You can say the same for anything you're selling--it has to meet the buyer's need/wants -- even if you have to make them aware that they need/want it.)

Question is, how/where can you find out about such potential grants?

Marion,
Among the "senior" places that hire me to do music are:
¥  (drop in) senior centers ( folks go there to socialize, not to get help with ADLs)
¥  adult day care centers (for folks who need supervision during the day for mental or physical reasons or both)
¥  group homes (for behavior disordered, drug rehab, developmentally challenged, geriatric, etc. people)
¥  geropsychicatric units within hospitals
¥  convalescent/rehabilitation facilites (with both long-termp patients-e.g., frail elderly and MS/CP patients-- and short-term patients--e.g., head injury, neck and back injury, and hip-fracture patients) and often with a wing for the memory impaired (e.g., Alzheimer's patients)
¥ nursing homes that house only the frail elderly (in need of 24 hour care for physical and/or mental dysfunction)
¥ assisted living residences (folks who need lower levels of care/supervision for physical or mental conditions or both --e.g., folks who need help bathing, folks who need daily medications monitored by a nurse, folks whose short-term memory deficits necessitate supervision)
¥ independent living residences (for people who need little or no assistance with their ADLs but who prefer the option of having their meals and housekeeping provided and having the social opportunities available in a community of senior citizens)
¥ retirement communities (with a range of lifestyles, including private homes, condominiums, apartments, residential group facilities, etc., all in the same complex)

Some of these types of facilities have mixed-age populations, and even in "senior" facilities, there may be several generations present for a program (with staff, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of residents attending/participating in some programs).

Also, some facilities are specialized populations, such as Jewish homes, Christian church-affiliated homes, Hispanic-related facilities.

Pictures and CDs are usually not necessary, but it "couldnt hoit" to have them available for the activity directors who want them.  It's more important to have a brochure/flyer that tells what kind of music you do  (e.g., jazz piano, folk guitar, classical banjo) and how to contact you.  You can give more information when you talk to the activity director.

Don't assume that anyone has a decent PA system.  Some do, but others have none at all.  I use a Fender Amp Can for jobs where I need a little amplification but don't need to have concert-hall sound quality.  For very small rooms or 1-to-1 music therapy, I use no amp.  I have more cumbersome but better quality amps for when I really want to fill a room and sound my best.  One thing you should know is that when playing at nursing and convalescent homes, you will very often be interrupted by PA announcements, nurses shouting in residents' ears to administer meds,  sometimes disruptive residents, and--oh, yes-- family and staff members carrying on loud conversations as though there were no activity going on at all!  Do invest in some sort of small PA system unless you're a belter and have a loud instrument, too.   I don't charge differently based on the PA system per se, but I do offer reduced rates to LOW BUDGET facilities if I can do the gig there--all things considered--relatively easily, conveniently, and quickly.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: GUEST,Wa Ban Zhou
Date: 28 Jul 02 - 01:15 AM

I've played and sung at some retirement homes and nursing homes, the gig I remember is the one where I showed up with my guitar, banjo and mandolin, to be told that what was expected of me was to walk around with a mike on long cord and croon to karoake-type back grounds. Well, down for a dime, down for a dollar I say, so I un did three buttons on my shirt, picked up my mike,and off into the wheelchairs I went, getting up in old women's faces and singing "What's New Pussycat" or whatever. It was strange. The people seemed to like it.I got a good story out of it, so it all worked out, but after that I always checked with the Program Director about what I was sxpected to do.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: musicmick
Date: 28 Jul 02 - 01:42 AM

Marion, Mike here. Genie is right on the mark about the sound system. Never trust that they will have a sound system or that their sound system will be functional. I use a small amp and a good mike. If you are serious about specializing in senior centers, you might invest in a remote setup. It gives me the freedom to walk around and interact with the patients. It really gives the show a new and vital dimension. Never, never, never play for free. If you do, you will have established your price. No one wants to pay someone who is willing to work for free. I know it's unfair but that's the way it is. If you work for free as a soloist, your group will be seen as an extention of you, that is as amateurs. If you are good enough to play, you are good enough for pay.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 28 Jul 02 - 02:44 AM

Marion, musimic, et al.,
Re: playing/working pro bono: Many professionals--some highly paid-- do a certain amount of pro bono work each year, and I have no objection to that. It generally amounts to a small percentage of the service provider's working hours and is provided for clients who really can't afford to pay.

What I do object to is: - the idea that musicians shouldn't charge, because they are doing something they love to do, and - the idea that nursing/retirement homes are, by definition, low-budget or non-profit and, therefore, should not pay for what others pay for.

No matter what your job and how much you love it, it's still work, and there is skill, talent, time, expense, etc. involved. Musicians should no more be ashamed to accept money for their services than should any other artisan, professional, craftsman, laborer, etc.

Also, the little mom and pop grocery store down the street may well be on a tighter budget than are a lot of nursing homes, I've seen senior facilities waste tons of money on things like putting out huge food trays for a party 40 minutes after dinner and then throwing 80% of it away, or disposable party decorations (Are those really needed?), or running their sprinkler systems mid-afternoon on really hot days --and then say "we have no more budget for entertainment. Think about it: if a facility has 100 residents and pays $50 for a sing-along once a week, that's $2.00 per week per resident. Folks in some independent living residences pay way over $100,000 per year to live there. Moreover, in many states, senior faciltities--including foster homes-- are required by law to provide actitivities for their residents. Believe me, the state does not expect these facilities to provide such services by relying on volunteers only.

The only reason I generally do "free" programs for the kind of facility I usually charge is when it's a bona fide audition that I am assured will lead to regular employment if the residents like me -- or if I've screwed up (e.g., missed a gig due to a calendar SNAFU) and "owe" them. (I even occasionally have problems from using a sliding scale and have to explain that to folks.)

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: musicmick
Date: 28 Jul 02 - 03:50 AM

Well Genie, it's dificult for a prospective client to differentiate between pro bono and dillitante. Every facility thinks itself worthy of volunteer contribution and, I suppose, they are. I dont doubt that professionals will donate their services to causes or institutions occasionally. This is not a problem unless the pro bono performance is done in the same kind of venue that the performer usually charges. If, let's say, a nightclub performer chooses to donate a set at a nursing home, his professional status is not compramised. Were he to donate his time at a nightclub, other nightclubs might balk at paying for what a rival establishment receives gratis. There are benefit concerts where professionals donate their talents. These are appropriate venues for your charity. I would feel uncomfortable about charging some facilities and not others. All my nursing homes are worthy and all of their patients deserve entertainment and the pure joy that only music can provide. I understand that some facilities have more limited funds than others and I sometimes take lower paying jobs if it makes business sense (double bookings, multiple bookings). Remember that first maxim. THEY REALLY DO HAVE AN ACTIVITIES BUDGET.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 28 Jul 02 - 04:34 AM

Mike, you've nailed it right on the head. The doc who usually works for a hospital or in private practice may do pro bono work for a nursing home, but the doc whose regular clients are nursing homes had best not.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 28 Jul 02 - 09:00 AM

As I said, early on, if you can afford to donate your services and find playing at nursing homes rewarding in other ways, everyone benefits. I wouldn't turn down an honorarium if offered, and for a special event, I'd ask for one. But just going to play for a room of people in wheel chairs on a Thursday afternoon for no reason other than that the days drag for the patients is something I love to do. If you need the money, I have no problem with that. But conversely, if someone wants to bring some joy to people badly in need of it and they don't need the money that badly that doesn't mean that they aren't valuing their music. When people ask how much my gospel group gets paid, I say our fee ranges from zero to $2,000. We've played for free, and we can get as much as $2,000 if we have to travel across country. It is our choice, how much we get paid. Or don't.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: pavane
Date: 28 Jul 02 - 01:05 PM

Mrs Pavane regularly does nursing homes and day centres here in Wales, and they all have an entertainment budget. The standard fee is £30, plus £5 if she has to travel more than 20 miles. As noted above, this is very little per head.

She built up the list of about 40 homes by just calling those listed in Yellow Pages. Many of them have given her further leads.

She ALWAYS takes her own PA, and an extra mike (& long lead!) for residents (and staff) to sing along.

She has a programme of pop songs mainly from the 1940's to the 1960's, which she finds are always well received, and also does standards like Danny Boy.

Occasionally, when I am free during the day, we have played some folk music as well, mostly Welsh tunes, and that also goes down well. Quite a number of the residents turn out to have been singers or musicians, and they appreciate the live music.

As for 'freebies', she does do Charity shows occasionally, but no others.

PS She did a club in Hirwaun last night, and was told she was the best act they had ever had!


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: musicmick
Date: 28 Jul 02 - 06:50 PM

Jerry is, obviously, commited to his beliefs and conducts his business accordingly, but if I were the activities director of a facility that Jerry chose to charge a fee, I would be resentful that he regarded my facility less worthy of his charity than another and I would be very reluctant to hire him and his group.I just dont think that selective largesse is compatable with sound business practice. If Jerry wishes to donate his time and effort to a particular nursing home, he can, discretely donate his fee AFTER he receives it.(I would hope that the fortunate recreator has the good sense to keep word of Jerry's generousity to himself). Professionalism is an attitude. It means running one's business as a business with agressive sales, quality product or service and intelligent management. Bill Veek, that great showman who added pizazz to what had been the dull predictability of baseball team ownership, had lots of promotions to increase ticket sales. He gave away cars, vacations and livestock but he never gave away free tickets. In his book, "Veek As In Wreck", he says, "Never give away what you are trying to sell."

Mike


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Ferrara
Date: 28 Jul 02 - 07:15 PM

Well, there are a lot of groups around here that donate their music to nursing homes, etc. That doesn't mean it's the only option.

Here my 2cents: If you are thinking of doing an occasional nursing home gig and have the time and want to be of service, then don't hesitate to do it for free. If you intend to invest a large amount of time and energy, and need it to pay, then don't hesitate to do it for pay if you can manage it. (We are speaking strictly of playing music here.....:-)

Rita


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 28 Jul 02 - 10:04 PM

I think the idea that musicians should perform free for "nursing homes" comes from looking at it as providing a service to the residents/patients, rather than viewing it as providing  a needed service to a business.  Most  doctors, accountants, social workers, nurses, cooks, caterers, landscapers, electricians, and educators, etc., who serve the nursing home will charge for their services; they realize they are selling to the business or agency the services that are needed to run that business.  The electrician doesn't think: "Gee, those poor old folks are going to be left in the dark if no one donates their services to install lighting."

Activities/recreation therapy programs are recognized in the field as being very important to maintaining residents'/patient's health and are mandated in many states.  Sometimes the regular staff can provide these without hiring outside help (e.g., using recorded music and/or the talents of the staff), but often the residents benefit more from having live performers--especially those who specialize in doing music for this population.  Hiring musicians and music therapists is every bit as legitimate an expense for the business as is buying party decorations or ice cream and cake for the resident birthday party (on top of the regular budget for meals), renting videos, buying prizes for bingo, and other parts of the typical activity budget.

Again, this is not to discourage volunteerism.  Musicians often do music for nothing--sing-alongs, church choirs, open mics, jam sessions, etc.  And lots of us do other volunteer work --tree planting, "work days" at the church, helping in soup kitchens, building homes for Habitat For Humanity, etc.  And if you are strictly an amateur musician (i.e., you never charge), by all means donate your musical services.  But if you want to help out the old folks in nursing homes, why limit it to music.  There's a great need for folks to read to shut ins;  if you've got a mild-mannered pooch, the residents would love to have a visit; if you're a teacher of anything, you can do some free tutoring; you can save the facility money by doing landscape maintenance or painting for free; etc.  Please, though, don't single out musical performance and nursing homes as being less appropriate for paid services than are other occupations and businesses.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 28 Jul 02 - 11:13 PM

Musicmic: For the record, I've sung for nursing homes since the early sixties and I have never charged a fee, and never been paid one. Never asked for one. We have two different motivations for singing at nursing homes here, and each is valid. I don't criticize you or Genie for wanting to be paid, and I don't feel that my wanting to volunteer my services justifies criticism either. I don't consider myself an "amateur" musician. I've also done benefit concerts for many worthy organizations, including Habitat For Humanity, churches, community centers and the United Way among others. And you're right, Genie... there are many ways to reach out to the sick and shut-in. It's something I've enjoyed doing for most of my life. My wife and I visit the sick several times a month... far more often than I am asked to sing. We also keep in touch by phone with those who are housebound who we can't visit as regularly as we want.

Perhaps I am not running my business professionally. But then, it's not my business. If it was, I would run it differently. I have been fortunate not to be dependent on making a living off music, and that's allowed me to give what I have as generously as I can. If others have different needs, that's fine. They just haven't been mine, and I'm grateful for it.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 29 Jul 02 - 01:06 AM

.... and Genie: I am not singling out musical performance and nursing homes as less appropriate for paid services. This is probably the fourth posting that I've made that says I have NO criticism of people who expect to get paid for singing in nursing homes. My closest friend all these years has tried to support himself and his family on folk music and couldn not do what I've been able to do because I had a decent paying regular job. I would only encourage him to get paid every time that he could.

The funny thing is, Genie (and musicmic) No matter how hard we all try, we all end up talking about ourselves. Please don't take anything I say about what I am doing as being any more than saying what I am doing. It is not a criticism of you, or a negative comment about what you're doing. But, I guess that makes it the fifth time I'e said it. And meant it.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: musicmick
Date: 29 Jul 02 - 01:57 AM

Jerry, the name of the thread is Getting Nursing Home Gigs which, I assume, means paying jobs. As you dont seek paying jobs, my comments dont apply to you. Also, the term, amateur, is not a judgement of talent or ability. It means, literally, one who acts for the love of the activity. Those of us who perform for our suppers have chosen a field that, in general, is not as high paying or secure as others. We stay with our music careers because we love what we do, we do it well and we enjoy joy of expression and fulfillment that performing provides. We put up with many hassles trying to establish our businesses. We deal with low pay, slow play and clients who think we should get no pay. We are in a constant search for work. We dont get health benefits, we dont get retirement plans. We have little or no protection from clients who cancel at the last minute or who double book. Now, I am well established (I;ve been in this business for forty years) but the majority of the Mudcatters who are reading this thread are trying to make a niche for thenselves and, for them and for you, may I remind you of the out-of-work actor who decides to jump off a bridge and he meets a despondent prostitute who is also bent on suicide. He sums up their troubles saying, "Here we are, members of two noble professions, destroyed by amatuers."

Mike


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 29 Jul 02 - 02:48 AM

Jerry R, just to be clear, I'm not criticizing you, or anyone, for singing anywhere for free if it's not your primary profession and/or if there's a gig that you just plain want to do, for whatever reason, with no thought of compensation.  As Mike said, though, it's problematic to charge one school and not another or one nursing home and not another.  It seems we're all repeating ourselves--probably of necessity--to make sure our points have been communicated clearly.

I think we're in agreement that doing music as a professional for nursing homes is quite legitimate; that musicians deserve to be paid just like other artisans, professionals, workers; and that volunteering your time/service where it's needed is fine.  (I should add that most of the senior facilities where I play do use a lot of volunteer musicians --e.g., school and church choruses, retired musicians, and amateur musicians, as well as professional musicians who don't specialize in music for old folks--in addition to the musicians paid from their activities budget.  That is to say that folks who volunteer are not necessarily taking paid work away from those of us who charge; activities budgets are limited, and most places would like to have more activities than their budget allows.)

Nevertheless, the attitude that musicians should "play" for the love of it alone still persists--especially when it comes to nursing homes.  It's not unusual for family members who are present for my programs in nursing homes to gush at me, "I think it's such a wonderful thing that you're doing!"--with the possible/probable subtext "I'm assuming you're doing this as a volunteer."  (Do they say that to the nurses or doctors who treat the elderly?)  And, as Mike's bridge parable illustrates, the more people there are who are willing to provide a "service" free, the harder it is to make a living at it.  I think that's a reality musicians will always be up against, because -- unlike scrubbing toilets -- it's work that a lot of folks will do, and do well, for nothing.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 29 Jul 02 - 03:25 AM

First of all, many thanks to Genie and Musicmic - I'm learning a lot from this thread and the day job thread.

Some more thoughts:

1. I see your point, Mike, about being consistent and not giving away what I want to sell, but it creates a bit of a dilemma as I'm halfway between amateur and pro - I want to play for money, but I'm willing to play for free. I've volunteered as a musician at nursing homes dozens of times, and found it very fulfilling. There's one home now where I go once or twice a month as a volunteer. I'd hate to have to stop doing that in order to pursue the professional option.

2. At the same time, my volunteer gigs are quite different from what I would expect a paying gig to be - much more on my own terms. I tell the home when I want to come, I don't dress up, I only bring my fiddle, and I wander from floor to floor playing maybe 20 minutes at a spot, and I don't have to talk unless people talk to me. Indoor busking, basically. The only costs to me are time and bus fare, and it's worth it to me to see how much people enjoy the music.

However, I imagine that it'll be different when I look for work with my band - we'll have to worry about being there on time, and dress up, and maybe buy sound equipment, and get around on crowded buses with more than one instrument, and take taxis if we need to bring a PA, and rehearse with each other, and book gig times that meet all our schedules as well as the homes', and prepare enough material to play a long time in one location, and talk between songs, and so on. It's all these extra headaches that I want to be compensated for - not the music itself.

3. I've had one paying gig at a nursing home party; and it's a little strange how I got the gig. There is another nursing home in my neighbourhood where I've been trying to volunteer... I've left them half a dozen messages in as many months, and they never call me back. However, an aide (not involved in activity planning) who works there brought my number to a different home she also works at and they called me up and offered me a paying gig, with no evidence of what I can do other than my phone message that "I'm a fiddler...". So maybe volunteering doesn't lead to gigs, but unsuccessfully trying to volunteer does...:)

4. At that party gig I played, there happened to be a girl volunteering (in the kitchen) who also played fiddle, so she borrowed my fiddle and played for a while too. In terms of musical skill, she totally kicked my butt (although I think I was better at choosing material that the audience liked). I was a little embarrassed at first that I was getting paid and she wasn't, till I reflected that this didn't have anything to do with our skill: it was because she presented herself as a volunteer and I presented myself as a professional.

Anyway, what I've learned from this is that there is money available and if I declare myself a professional then I've got as much of a shot at it as anybody - but I think waiting for the next call out of the blue isn't a good plan.

5. There's a hospital where I was going frequently to visit somebody, and I chatted with a band that was volunteering there. I suggested that I'd sit in with them on my next visit, and they said that I'd be welcome musically, I'd have to be properly registered as a hospital volunteer to play a tune with them, which meant getting a tuberculosis test, getting a couple of people to fill in reference forms, and attending a 4 hour orientation session. Sorry... too many hoops to jump through to play for free.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 29 Jul 02 - 03:39 AM

Marion, I think you've hit an important nail on the head:  "...volunteer gigs are quite different from what I would expect a paying gig to be - much more on my own terms...  ."  and "It's [the] extra headaches that I want to be compensated for - not the music itself. "  [Like all the red tape that hospital required.]

You're right that "waiting for the next call out of the blue isn't a good plan."


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 29 Jul 02 - 03:40 AM

Another question, Genie (I'm going to send you a present when our band gets on our feet):

Occasionally when I call in to volunteer, I'm told that the home isn't taking outside visitors because of an outbreak. How do you deal with this financially when it happens on short notice? Do you expect to be paid anyway, or paid a lesser cancellation fee?

Actually, one more thing; you said above that people need to realize that music is a service (paid, or donated) to the institution, not the residents. I don't think that's entirely true. While the institution is probably going to get live music for the Christmas party, and pay for it if they have to, they're probably not going to be booking music for next Wednesday afternoon. So whether or not I take the time to show up Wednesday afternoon makes a difference to the residents, not to the institution. So I think of my volunteering as a gift to the residents, who would in fact be left "sitting there in the quiet" at that particular time if I don't show up.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 29 Jul 02 - 04:21 AM

Marion, when I'm cancelled last minute due to unavoidable circumstances I try to reschedule the program, if I can, for a time that is not a high-demand time in my schedule.  If this is not possible, I generally just write it off.  After all, it occasionally happens the other way around --I have to cancel last minute (or reschedule) because of illness or getting stuck in a horrendous traffic jam or having a car break down.

I've toyed with the idea of requiring a cancellation fee if I'm cancelled on short notice (less than 2 months ahead of time for prime time gigs), but to pull that policy off, there's a lot of logistics to set up first, and I'm not sure it's worth my time.  Most places that would honor the policy will also pay me anyway if they have to cancel last minute.  (Exeter House in Seattle recently did just that when my scheduled program conflicted wtih the memorial service for a resident who died unexpectedly.)

Re service to the resident vs. service to the facility, I think when you do a program for the residents as a group, you are providing the service to the facility.  They usually have activities scheduled for Wednesday afternoon and pretty much all the hours when most residents are awake, and when volunteers provide those programs, it frees up their staff/budgets for other things.  To reiterate, most states require them to provide activities, not just have their residents sitting around all day with nothing to do.

One-to-one visits are less clear-cut in that regard,  The facility does (and is probably mandated to) provide activities for room-bound residents, but there is always more of a need for these visits than is budgeted for, so if you give them room visits beyond what they've scheduled, it really is an additional service to the residents.
(When residents go back to their rooms for a nap after lunch or are put to bed after dinner, some of them stay up and awake much longer than others; when you sing for these residents, I'd say your service is essentially to individual seniors, not so much to the facility.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 29 Jul 02 - 07:30 AM

Hi, Genie, Mike and Marion: It took awhile, but I'm glad that we see each other clearly and appreciate what each of us does. In the long run, I'm just pleased that we're all going into nursing homes. Mike and Genie have a lot of good suggestions, which I don't as I'm not trying to get a paying gig out of nursing homes (I'm perfectly happy to ask for as much as traffic will allow in most other circustances though, so I am not necessarily altruistic.) I also realize that it costs money to play music. I've invested quite a bit in sound equipment, and appreciate the jobs that pay well to help offset that investment. Also, when I play with my quartet, a couple of the guys may have to give up the opportunity to earn money in other ways in order to come and play for nothing. That happens infrequently enough that they encourage me to get "bookings" as often as I can. And, having played folk music for pay so many years, I realize that bookings are often not much more than a break-even proposition even when you are paid. I especially appreciate what you've done, Mike, because I know that you are trying to make a living doing what you love, and that you bring an enormous amount of pleasure to other people with very little compensation. I commented once that "in folk music, there is no such thing as a career move." And it's true. It's a profession that only those who really love the music and performing would choose. The more you can get paid, the better. I also have found from experience that because I volunteer somewhere doesn't mean that the church or nursing home won't pay someone else. I have never felt that I'm taking work away from other musicians and I could give countless examples of places where I've sung for a fund-raiser where they hired someone else to do a program later. I don't have regrets. I get my paying jobs at places where they have volunteers, too. If anyone thinks that most musicians are in it for the money, they should be instituionalized.

I think I'll bow out here... good luck to all of you. :-)

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: M.Ted
Date: 29 Jul 02 - 03:18 PM

Genie: I'll PM you, since the answer to your question is not really an answer, but more the subject of an unrelated conversation--As for you, Marion, there are many retirement communities in Florida, and there is something akin to a performing circuit--there are a lot of professional entertainers who make a living there--but take my word for it, none of them let someone from the kitchen cut into their act--


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 29 Jul 02 - 08:29 PM

M.Ted., I'm sure the well-established entertainers in Florida's retirement-home circuit wouldn't take much gaff from the kitchen staff.  Where the entertainment/activity is highly valued, and paid a commensurate fee, the administrator would probably not be happy if an entertainer crossed them off her/his list because of the impertinence of a peripheral staffer.  (When you're just getting established, you have less clout.)

In nursing and convalescent homes, though -- places that have nurses, aides, etc. -- the activity or recreation therapy department is, unofficially, lower on the totem pole than are such "essential" departments as nursing and dietary.  Visitors and staff not only interrupt me, they interrupt the activity director in the middle of story reading, music, or other activities for which residents' attention is important--even memorial services.   I think it's mainly a reflection of the attitude that people do live by bread -- and meds -- alone; art, music, and spirituality are considered non-essential.

Also some staff simultaneously underestimate and overestimate residents' mental abilities.  Some see no point in trying to engage their minds--e.g., with a funny story or a ballad where you have to listen to the whole thing.  Others underappreciate their distractibiltiy, unaware that if they stand in the doorway and wave to residents, or come in and hug them during the program, they are often--no matter how well intentioned--lessening the cognitive and emotional stimulation the residents could have derived if allowed to participate in the activity uninterrupted.
 


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: musicmick
Date: 29 Jul 02 - 11:14 PM

Marion, you are, indeed, in a bind. You will never be able to establish yourself as a professional if you are willing to perform without pay. Your potential customers will judge your value by what others have paid and, if they have paid nothing, that is the precise sum you will be offered. I know it's unfair but it is the way of the world. Too many facilities think that musicians should donate their services as it is. You are, already, in competition with people like Jerry, who never charge for their performances and create the impression that entertainment is free. You have to change their view of your worth and the only way to do that is to stop giving it away. When you are well established and can command you fee, you will be less comprimised by your charity. There will always be the gifted amateurs who play for charitable motives. They are not your concern. You must show that you are at a different level of skill and that you should be paid even though they are not. Otherwise, why should a facility pay you rather than book Jerry for free? You have to know that you are much better than the amateurs and you have to show that you know it by charging EVERYONE for your work. Yes, it is chutzbah but if you dont believe in yourself, why should anyone else? Good luck.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 30 Jul 02 - 01:14 AM

Marion, what Mike says is right on. I'm sure I've said this before (somewhere in the forum), but one way to set yourself apart from most of the volunteer performers is to develop skills and play lists that are specifically geared to nursing homes. The activity directors can help you with this, and you will learn a lot just by doing this kind of music program frequently.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Ferrara
Date: 30 Jul 02 - 01:55 AM

Have been following this thread with interest although I don't have much to contribute since most (but not all) of my playing specifically for older people has been unpaid so far.

Marion's description of the requirements for being a hospital volunteer included a TB test, and she mentioned outbreaks of infection etc. do occur. This made me aware of a potential problem for me. Would like to know whether it's really likely to be a problem.

Here's the thing: I had a heart transplant almost 7 years ago. I take medications to suppress my immune system, and my white blood count (first line against infection) keeps getting lower. I stay pretty healthy, but I also don't work outside my home.

I can call my doctors and ask whether it would be a problem I guess. What I'd like, is your gut reaction to whether there's likely to be any real increase in exposure to infectious this-and-thats if one is playing in a nursing home. I'm hoping you will feel that this is a non problem.

Rita


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Ferrara
Date: 30 Jul 02 - 02:10 AM

Another question. Genie and Mike are agreed that you can't do pro bono work for one nursing home and expect to be paid by other nursing homes. Makes sense to me.

But what about doing other types of pro bono gigs that aren't in competition with your paid work? I played several times for groups like Kiwanis, and several Jewish service organizations. For some groups, I only played about 25 minutes because I was "guest speaker" at their meeting. A few offered to pay but asked whether I would donate the time. They all invited me to lunch with the group. If I played longer sets, I was paid.

Most of these little gigs led to other requests for me to play, and eventually to some paying gigs.

I've been sporadically working on a CD which -- if I can get it out! -- will probably sell well to these groups. Because of these threads, I have moved the CD project to the front burner again. (It's not my terrific musicianship that will sell CD's for me, it's the sound of my lovely old zither, and my repertoire of old parlor songs and old pop songs.)

Even if they don't pay me, I suspect I could sell a few CD's each time, maybe more than a few. And, each set is only 25-30 minutes, it's not comparable to performing for 40 minutes to an hour.

So. Would this be incompatible with playing for pay at retirement communities, nursing homes, etc?

Thanks for all the marvelous info in this and the day job thread, Mike, Genie, Jerry, everyone. Even if I find I have to avoid nursing homes, this thread is giving me so much valuable info for earning a bit of money from something I love to do.

Rita


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 30 Jul 02 - 02:51 AM

Re: "let someone from the kitchen cut into their act" and "the impertinence of a peripheral staffer":

I actually hadn't thought about it that way at all until now. I appreciated the girl's desire to do some of the fiddling because then I could accompany her on the piano, and I figure that a fiddle-piano duet would be nicer than a long stretch of solo fiddle. But I suppose it could have backfired, if she turned out not to be any good, so maybe it's too risky to let a stranger sit in. And maybe it has backfired on me with me realizing - if it made the AD look at me as less professional because of this.

I showed this thread to my mother today, who has been doing hymn singalongs at nursing homes as a volunteer for 25 years. She says that what makes her events there different from almost everybody else's (volunteer or paid) is that it's meant to be highly participatory, not a performance. They hand out lyric books, and ask for requests, and help people find their places in the books, and change tempo partway through a song to accomodate someone who's singing at a different tempo. She has also had many experiences of people who are apparently very disengaged from the world start to respond when a familiar hymn is sung - and the staff tell her that many people are more alert for hours after a hymnsing.

She also told me that while virtually all of the musicians who play at the nursing homes in our town are volunteers, for the volunteer appreciation dinners (to which the residents aren't invited), they hire a band. That's funny, but not in a ha-ha way.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 30 Jul 02 - 04:47 AM

Rita, most nursing homes don't have a lot of folks with infectuous diseases--any more than a school or church does.  Folks are there to recover from broken hips, etc., or to be supervised by RNs in their daily activities because they need vital signs monitored (e.g., for diabetes, high blood pressure) and/or  supervision due to memory loss or other dementia.  When residents do catch a communicable disease like the flu, they tend to stay in their rooms while they recuperate.  Sometimes, though, "the flu" will kind of sweep through the home--as it might in a school; when this happens, they usually cancel entertainment programs.

I'd suggest addressing these, quite natural, concerns of yours with the folks who are thinking of hiring you.  They'll know how likely this is to be a problem at their particular faciltiy.  You may want to steer away from the Alzheimer's units, though, since folks with great cognitive impairment are often far less hygenic in their behavior than higher functioning residents are.  (Some of them, in fact, are likely to hug or kiss you or touch you in other unanticipated ways, which could be a problem when you have a compromised immune system.)  On the other hand, if you play for assisted living or independent living facilities, there would probably be no problem.  These folks are, for the most part, just old.

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

Re charging some kinds of organizations/facilities and not others:  Yes, I think you can do this.  But I would base the decision on whether the org. usually pays for entertainment or not, and on the other perks you may get for singing there.  For instance, a lot of senior centers really don't have a budget for entertainment (except a small amount for holiday programs).  They tend to be more like co-ops than for-profit businesses, and the seniors who frequent them often provide the entertainment themselves.  On the other hand, they can be great places to network and drum up other business--and maybe sell CDs.

In my experience, the various Jewish organizations and the Masonic lodges, etc., not only pay for entertainment, they pay a higher hourly rate than most nursing homes do.  There again, though, you might sell CDs and drum up clients for private parties, etc., by doing a volunteer program.

You still may encounter expectations of your being "a volunteer musician," though, if the staff of a nursing home know that you perform free for the local B'nai Brith or Masonic lodge.  I'd recommend asking for some sort of honorarium for all of them, even if it's not a huge amount, if you want to establish yourself as a professional musician.

----

Marion, I took Ted's comment about the kitchen staff as relating to what I had said (early in the thread) about a kitchen staffer giving me grief about wanting to get the temperature down below 80 degrees.  Maybe he was referring to the staffer who played your violin.  Or maybe both.

What your mother describes is very much the kind of approach that I think especially merits being paid by the nursing home--especially if she puts together her own songbooks (which can take a lot of time).  She is providing the facility and its residents a program specifically geared to their needs--exactly what the state agencies say nursing homes need to provide.  This is quite different from  a performer just taking out a couple of hours to drop in and do one of their routine sets for the group with no attempt to accommodate the residents' tastes, requests, etc.  (The latter can be quite entertaining, but the home can also put on an audio or video tape if they just want to hear really good music.  You don't get the interaction with the residents and the group participation from that, though.)

And, yes, I do find it "funny" -- and quite telling -- that a facility would hire musicians to entertain their staff but use only volunteers to provide entertainment and music therapy to their residents (who, in one way or another, pay the bills!).

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: musicmick
Date: 30 Jul 02 - 03:17 PM

I have found that volunteering and charging are incompatable. This goes double for someone who is trying to establish a reputation and a client base. There are appropriate venues for volunteering music. There are benefits where many professionals give their time and talents to a cause. At such events, no one is paid. This includes staff as well as performers. Try singing for telethons or charitabile functions. That way, you will be donating your talent without jeopordising your professional standing. Jewish orginizations, Masonic lodges, community events not only have money for entertainment, they provide the lion's share of my income. It is an inescapable fact, you must be prepared to STOP singing for free if you want to get paying jobs. (The only exeptions are auditions and showcases.) And dont let anyone give you that bull about "...It will be good exposure". As Dave Van Ronk used to say, "Exposure is what a folksinger dies of, sleeping in a doorway."


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: musicmick
Date: 30 Jul 02 - 03:24 PM

I have found that volunteering and charging are incompatable. This goes double for someone who is trying to establish a reputation and a client base. There are appropriate venues for volunteering music. There are benefits where many professionals give their time and talents to a cause. At such events, no one is paid. This includes staff as well as performers. Try singing for telethons or charitabile functions. That way, you will be donating your talent without jeopordising your professional standing. Jewish orginizations, Masonic lodges, community events not only have money for entertainment, they provide the lion's share of my income. It is an inescapable fact, you must be prepared to STOP singing for free if you want to get paying jobs. (The only exeptions are auditions and showcases.) And dont let anyone give you that bull about "...It will be good exposure". As Dave Van Ronk used to say, "Exposure is what a folksinger dies of, sleeping in a doorway."


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 30 Jul 02 - 11:15 PM

Good line by Dave Van Ronk, Mike, Right on the money!

Performers can, BTW, suffer from too much exposure. It happens to actors, rock stars, TV "personalities", etc. all the time-- and sometimes to folks on the retirement home circuit.

When I first contact a new facility, I'm often met with "Oh, great! We're always looking for new entertainers!" That's a welcome line when you're the "new entertainer," but it's also an omen. Some places will stop hiring you after the "new" wears off just because you're not new any more! Good reason for getting paid for the time you are in the public eye (whatever "public" that may be).

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: musicmick
Date: 31 Jul 02 - 01:01 AM

Dont you believe it, Genie. Recreators value dependability and predictability above all other traits. Sure, they want new acts but, if you have done a good job for them, they will hire you again and again. Fortunately, there are lots of facilities whiich means an almost unlimited market. I rarely work at a facility more than twice a year, but with hundreds od nursing homes. retirement communities, senior centers, schools, libraries, synagogues, orginizations and associations within a thirty mile radius, I dont have to worry about not playing at a particular venue more often than once or twice a year. What you need to do is expand your market to provide you with enough work all the time. Have you found the agents in your area yet? If you write me directly, I can offer some specific ideas for you. You have a fine attitude and you seem to understand the nuances of this crazy business.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 31 Jul 02 - 01:20 AM

Depends on the facility and the activity director, Mike.

I never ceases to amaze me how an AD at one facility will hire the same one or two musicians once or twice a month (sometimes twice a week) for decades, while another AD at a comparable facility will say s/he doesn't like to hire the same person more than 2 or 3 times a year because "our residents like variety." Even at the same facility, the tune can change when the AD changes.

Some ADs have the (unfortunate, I think) habit of hiring a person very frequently when they are "new" and then dumping them for someone else when, predictably, the residents start asking for something different for a change. (I'm talking independent and assisted living residences here, not nursing homes and Alzheimer's facilities.)

You're right, though, that in metropolitan areas there are enough places to play that you don't have to rely on playing at the same place more than a few times a year.

In my case, about 40% of my income is from regular clients, for whom I play 6 to 100 times a year. These save me a lot of paperwork and phone calls--but if one drops you (or goes bankrupt), it leaves a big void to fill.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 31 Jul 02 - 09:31 PM

Marion, here's a tip about getting re-hired by the same facility after you've performed there.  By all means, contact the activity director for feedback and to try to re-book ASAP after you perform.  There are several reasons for this:

 - There's high turnover in activity directory positions.  Wait 2 or 3 months and the one that hired you may very well be gone, and your "track record" with her/him.

 - Many ADs book far in advance.  You need to be aware of which ones do this, of course.  But some will tell you they book month to month, and then they'll one day get ambitious and book the rest of the year in June.  If you didn't happen to call them while they were doing that booking, you may well be left out.  (Yes, some of them do kind of take a first-call-first-booked approach.)

 - Many of your clients -- the audience members,that is -- have short-term memory deficits.  If performer X has sung for them 18 over the past 3 years and you come to sing for them once, and they adore you, the residents may very well ask the AD to invite you back--if they are asked right away.  What do you expect happens when, 3 to 6 months after you were there, the AD asks them "Who would you like to have sing for you?
 
 

One other tip about being invited or being invited back:  Some facilities  let resident councils choose the entertainment.
    If possible, determine who is likely to be on the resident council, and pay special attention to their tastes and preferences in your program.
    Some convalescent homes, e.g., will have a lot of low-functioning residents present in a sing-along or concert, as well as a few who are quite alert and verbal.   Guess which ones will be on the resident council.  So, if most of the residents respond best to "Jesus Loves Me," "My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean," and "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," but some of the younger, more alert, more vocal participants keep asking for Patsy Cline, Elvis and Garth Brooks songs, some ADs will let those more vocal residents choose the singers who do what they like, even if it does not engage the majority of residents.
(I'm not saying you should ignore the "silent majority"--just that you could do a program that was perfect for 90% of the residents and not be invited back as readily as you would if you tailored the entire program to the other 10%.)

It's not a bad idea to explore these issues with the AD, to find out how they decide whether and when to invite a performer back.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 01 Aug 02 - 02:13 AM

Hi Genie. You said, "Some ADs have the habit of hiring a person very frequently when they are "new" and then dumping them for someone else when, predictably, the residents start asking for something different for a change."

If you feel that an AD is booking you too much in a short period, do you suggest spreading the gigs out more?

Also, you said, "Some will ask for an audition. In those cases, I've learned to give them a tape instead."

Do you find people generally willing to accept the substitution?

Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 01 Aug 02 - 03:06 AM

Actually, Marion, I seldom suggest to someone that they hire me less often than they suggest.  You never know how long a recurring gig will last (due to budget cuts, changes in staff, etc.), so take the jobs while they're being offered.  Besides, some places keep hiring the same performer twice a week for 30 years.  You just can't predict how the residents will respond to this kind of predictabiltiy/familiarity -- or how the AD will interpret the feedback s/he gets.
 
 
 

Re the tape "substitution," if they won't accept it I just stand my ground.  If they don't hire me, so be it. I haven't done that many auditions for nursing homes or retirement homes, but I have not found it worth while.

A couple of illustrations will show why.

-----------------
One facility kept asking for an audition and presented themselves as seeking someone to be a regular, monthly performer.  I agreed to the audition with the provisos -- which they accepted -- that
(1)  the activity director would be present for the full hour of my audition program, and
(2)  she would ask the residents immediately afterward -- at least within 24 hours -- whether they wanted me to return.
The day of the audition, I called to "check in," and was told the AD no longer worked there.  I was going to beg off, but the administrator assured me that she would observe the program in lieu of the AD and would poll the residents, as we had agreed.
I did the program, and the residents seemed to love it.  Lots of them came up afterwards to tell me how great it was and how much they wanted me to return.
But the administrator had gotten tied up and was not present for any of it.  (She could hear it somewhat from her office but could not observe the residents' response.)
Soon thereafter, the administrator herself left her position.  When I contacted the new AD, a few weeks later, she wanted -- you guessed it! -- an audition!
I explained to her what happened with the last "audition" (i.e., free program) I did for them, and all she could say was, "Well, that's our policy.  We won't hire anyone without an audition."

-----------------
In another situation, for an upscale retirement residence in Del Mar, CA, the administrator served as AD and required an audition.  When I showed up for the audition, there was virtually no audience.  A couple of folks came and sat in the lobby to listen, but most were out on a field trip.  Then two women (probably in their 70s) came in, with arms folded and expressions on their faces that seemed to say "We know you're going to suck.  Just try to change our minds."  I had no idea what their tastes were (and they wouldn't tell me), but it was Christmas season, and I had said I was going to do an international Christmas/winter/Hanukkah program, so that's what I started to do.  A few other residents were sitting around the periphery of the lobby, and some of them told me afterwards that they liked the program, but I started getting a bunch of diverse requests ("Do some Irish music."  "Sing "Danny Boy."  -- I don't even remember what they asked for, but it was all over the place), which I did my best to accommodate.  The two scowling women sat there, with arms still folded, for about 2 songs, then got up and walked out.
After the "audition," the administrator said she would talk to the residents, as was their custom, at next resident council, and see about booking me.  I expressed my doubts, given the body language of the two front-and-center residents.  She said, not to worry, that the music was great.
Sure enough, when she called me back she was most apologetic, saying that she thought I was wonderful, but that "those two grouchy ladies" had, in effect, blackballed me.  (Yeah, she could have been just "being nice," but I really think she was sincere.)
Had I been told (a) that I would be auditioning for such a small, unrepresentative group, and (b) that the decision to hire was not the administrators's but was a matter of NOT displeasing a couple of residents, I would never have done the audition.  After all, you can please 90% or more of the audience and still have a couple of people not "dig your act."

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

I've actually had a new AD take over in a facility where I've played several times a year over the past few years and actually ask me for an audition, because she hadn't heard me herself!

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

I think auditions are reasonable for jobs that pay pretty well, but most nursing homes don't.  They also make sense if they're done for people who choose--and will continue, for a long time, to choose -- the acts that are hired.  But  staff turnover in nursing homes makes this unlikely.
In my own experience, I have not found it worth while.

I offer a satisfaction guarantee instead.  If they don't think I'm worth my price, they don't have to pay me.  (In well over 8,000 programs I've done, I've had only one person ask for her money back [and that was a bizarre situation that I won't bore you with].)   I also provide references.  If this is not enough assurance that my programs are worth at least what I charge for them, I just forget about trying to book that facility.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 02 Aug 02 - 12:35 AM

Genie, can you explain a little bit about how your sliding scale works? How you you know which facilities are low-budget?

Also, you say that you provide references - do you mean that you provide names and phone numbers for them to call? Or do you get your references to write something down for you that you include with your brochure?

Thanks, Marion

PS Bizarre situations aren't boring, they're interesting...


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 02 Aug 02 - 02:40 AM

Marion, I really never know what a facility's overall budget is, but if it's a nursing home with mainly Medicare patients, it's probably not well funded, especially if it is a non -profit. If it's a residence owned by Holiday Retirement Corporation, SunRise Assisted Living Communities, or Marriott, on the other hand, the residents pay a lot to live there, and the facility can bloody well afford to pay a reasonable price for entertainment.

Most ADs are pretty straight with you about what they generally pay their entertainers. If they say all their budget can handle is, say, $30 for a 45-minute program, that is probably true. Note: The activity director can usually do little to increase his/her budget. The administrators probably could allocate the funds differently, but good luck trying to get them to do so. Even if the AD has made what I'd consider a bad choice-- such as spending the entire budget on Bingo prizes and having to use only volunteer musicians--it's hard to change his/her mind.

If I know they're paying, say, half of what many clients pay, I decide whether I'm willing to do a program for that price, and it depends primarily on how much it costs me in time and money to do it, plus whether the time conflicts with something I'd rather be doing (such as taking a higher-paying gig).

One place I do music in San Diego is a senior center near my parents' home (travel time about 20 minutes round trip). They can only pay $25 and give me lunch. (Senior centers usually are on a shoestring budget.) But I play for only 30 minutes; I play at noon, so it seldom conflicts with other work; I can play pretty much anything I want and they'll love it;they're a very sharp audience and are a delight to perform for; and getting the booking takes me about 5 minutes. I don't mind at all doing this gig for this price.

As for references, I'm actually seldom asked for them. Sometimes I just tell a prospective client the names of the facilities and ADs to call, and sometimes I fax them a list.

I want to start getting formal letters from ADs, though, if I can--if only to tell the new AD or the administrator of THAT facility that my prior programs have been well received! As I said, staff turnover is frequent, so it's often hard for someone to contact the AD who hired you last year and thought you were so wonderful. But ADs are also notoriously overworked, so getting them to find time to write a letter might be hard.

Genie

PS, The "bizarre situation" I referred to is not really a boring story--more a case of incredible audacity on the part of the AD!. But I've been too long-winded in these threads already, so I'll spare you this tale.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: M.Ted
Date: 02 Aug 02 - 01:42 PM

You've pretty much painted yourself into a corner, Genie--you have to tell us--if you don't, I'll start a thread called "Ever been sked to give the money back?"--


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 02 Aug 02 - 02:57 PM

Just connecting some related threads.

click here


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 02 Aug 02 - 03:09 PM

One more thread, re the paid vs. volunteer issue: click here


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 03 Aug 02 - 12:09 AM

So with fees, you don't usually quote them a price, they quote you a price and you decide whether or not to take it?

And Genie, you mention that the AD might ask the residents, or residents' council, who they would like to have back. Do you make an effort to impress your name upon the audience, and if so, how?

Marion

PS There's only one thing more interesting than a bizarre situation, and that's a bizarre situation involving incredible audacity.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 03 Aug 02 - 02:01 AM

Here is some very good "do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do" advice, Marion. (I do some of this. I need to get better at the rest.)

¥ Learn as many residents' names as possible, as quickly as possible.

¥ If there is a resident who is especially exuberant about your music, send her or him a card after your gig to say how much you enjoyed meeting her or him and how much you would love to be invited back. Include a photo flyer or card, if possible, or mention the "favorite song" of hers/his that you so enjoy singing. The resident will enjoy getting the card, and your bond with that resident will be strengthened (as well as their memory of you stimulated).

¥ Tell them your name often -- at the beginning and end of each program, for sure, and sometimes in between (e.g., when introducing yourself to individual residents).

¥ Have some flyers or business cards with your photo on them to give to individual residents or their families. They will often ask for them.

¥ When you contact the AD about re-booking, mention by name the resident(s) who told you how much they loved your program and really wanted you to return. (E.g., "I really enjoy doing music with your residents. Jack Murphy seemed so thrilled to hear "Where The River Shannon Flows" and came up to me afterwards to tell me he hoped I would come back again. And I promised John Ames that I would learn "The Sierra Petes" so I could sing it for him next time.")

¥ At the end of your program, if (when) the residents are coming up to you and saying, "I do hope you'll come to sing for us again," --especially if the AD is present --, tell them, quite candidly: "I would love to come back. It's up to you folks, though. If you tell [AD's name] that you want be back, I'm sure s/he'll invite me back. S/he tries to give you the programs you vote for."

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

Yeah, Marion, re price, I generally quote them a price RANGE and say it's negotiable within that range. Usually, unless I have reason to believe it's a really low-budget facility, when I'm negotiating I start with my "standard" (i.e., next to highest) price and say "Is that what you're accustomed to paying?" If they say they generally have a lower ceiling, then I negotiate downward.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 03 Aug 02 - 02:48 AM

OK, folks, for those of you just dying to hear my lengthy tale of being asked to refund payment for a gig, here goes:

The proprietor of a small adult foster home, based upon having heard me play and sing for folks at another group home where she had worked, called me to book a regular monthly sing-along/music therapy session for her residents.  She was, by her own and others' accounts, a zealous devotee of a fundamentalist Christian sect and preferred to emphasize religious music for her residents.

When I arrived for my first program, there were 4 or 5 residents present (I forget which).
-One relatively young man, who may have had some mental disorder but no dementia, asked me to play "The Blue Danube Waltz."  (I am not really an instrumental guitarist.)  When I did not know how to play it, he became very disgusted and went back to his room.
-One woman who was ca. 100 years old and in one of those reclining "geri-chairs" stayed asleep during the whole program.
-One woman who was probably late eighties or early nineties sang along with me on quite a few songs.
-Another woman of about the same age did not do much singing but seemed to pay attention to most of the songs.
-If there was another woman there, she was mostly like the last one I mentioned.

I tried out various kinds of music, including the oldie sing-alongs like "My Bonnie," "Take Me Out To The Ball Game," "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," and "You Are My Sunshine," to modest success.  Then I switched to hymns, and the proprietor seemed to really light up.  Together we sang "It Is No Secret," "The Old Rugged Cross," "Just A Closer Walk With Thee," "Jesus Loves Me/He's Got The Whole World In His Hands," "In The Garden," "What A Friend," etc., and Stephanie (the proprietor) seemed delighted with the songs and with the response of the group.  We sang harmonies, got folks involved with the music, etc.  She proceeded to write me a check for the amount we had agreed on.

A month later, I drove back early from Seattle--having turned down one or two other engagements to do so -- for my previously scheduled second visit to the foster home.  When I arrived, one of Stephanie's workers, who was in charge that day, told me I was not on their schedule.

When I spoke with Stephanie the next day, she went into a tirade about how worthless my music was -- in particular, how my selection of songs to sing was not worthy of being anything but a free program.  I then reminded her of my "satisfaction guarantee" policy and asked why she had not said anything at the time of the first program.  She then pounced on the "money back" idea and began to demand a refund of the money she had paid me after that first performance.  But she would not tell me -- since she was denouncing my selection of material -- what kind of music it was she had been or was looking for!  She refused to give me any sort of specific feedback as to what was unsatisfactory about my music.  (Remember, she had heard me a few times before.)

I ended up writing her a letter stating that, while I would not have charged her for the program had she told me at the time that it was unsatisfactory, by failing to tell me that she was cancelling our "monthly bookings," she had cost me more than the amount she had paid me, so I would just consider it even.

Then she began to sort of "stalk" me in a weird way.  She wrote me several nasty letters, and she told me that she had "called around and learned that I had a reputation" for being lousy at this.  I made quite a few inquiries of my own and was unable to find any activity director who had even been contacted by her, much less anyone who said they were dissatisfied with my work.  Stephanie even told me that the proptietor of the group home where she had first heard me had told me she didn't like me and didn't want to keep hiring me.  Not only did that woman completely dismiss this as utter nonsense, but she continued to hire me many times a year for several more years.

It's possible that Stephanie just wanted to enhance her budget.  (Hence, the "opportunistic" epithet.)  Or she may have been a nut case.

One even more bizarre thing that may (or may not) tie into this is that something happened a year or so later that made me wonder if someone was calling around claiming to be me and saying who-knows-what?   There was a very upscale retirement community where I had played once when I first started doing this sort of job.  They hired musicians only 6 times a year and  had a long list of performers, so I didn't call them back for about 5 years.  Then, when I did call back, I was told, "You keep calling here, and we've told you that the residents said never to hire you again, and we've told you to stop calling, but you keep calling!"  Nothing I could say could persuade them that I had
¥ never been told I would not be rehired,
¥ never been told not to call back,  and
¥ not, in fact, called them in 18 months to 2 years.

In all probability, the confusion is just from having multiple staffers handling phone calls and performers with similar names (like the old children's game of "Gossip" or "Telephone").  But given Stephanie's other bizarre behaviors, I sometimes wonder...


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: GUEST,Marion
Date: 08 Aug 02 - 11:17 AM

That was an interesting story, thanks. I'll be sure to avoid people called Stephanie, just in case.

Some more wonderings:

Are there ways other than the yellow pages to get names of facilities to call? I looked in the yellow pages and there were surprisingly few nursing homes listed - at least half a dozen nursing homes that I happen to know of weren't in there.

Do you think ADs from different facilities talk to each other?

Do you think it's easier to get work as one-person show or as a band?

I think you've mentioned, Genie, that you're not in the union. Do you have a contract that you ask the facilities to sign? Do you leave them an invoice to mail you your pay, or expect it on the spot?

Thanks, Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 08 Aug 02 - 02:36 PM

Well, at least try to avoid proprietors who are nut cases. ;- )

RE phone books: try "nursing homes," "convalescent homes," "retirement communities," "adult day care," "senior centers," and "assisted living" facilities.

Also contact whatever agency regulates nursing and adult foster home in your county. There may be a state agency, a county agency, and a city agency involved. They will have lists of facilities. Approach it as though you were looking for a home fo an aging parent, to get the widest array of facilities.

Do ADs talk to each other? If the facilities are owned by the same parent company, they often do. And some ADs know each other. They do sometimes ask each other for suggestions as to whom to hire (even occasionally calling another facility where they don't know the AD). In San Diego, there are a couple of associations of activity directors.
As in any business, remember that bad news travels faster than good. Unfortunately, when people like you or your product or service, they tend to tell YOU; when they hate it, they tend to tell EVERYONE else. (I'm talking about going out of their way to tell people about you. I think they will always tell someone what they think of you, good or bad, when they are ASKED.) This is why I advise getting letters of reference from folks.

I haven't joined the union. (I brought up some of my concerns in one of the other threads.) Still considering giving it a try.

Some place use contracts (at least confirmation forms), and I sometimes use them. Unfortunately, they're not of much help beyond being a reminder. If would cost you more in time and money to try to collect on them legally than your fee would have been, in most cases. I would strongly suggest signed booking confirmation forms for special occasions like St. Patrick's and New Year's Eve, though.

Most places either pay me at the gig or have me sign an invoice of their own and then send me a check. Quite a few others with which I have an ongoing relationship just send me my check (usually afterwards, occasionally beforehand) without my being involved in the paperwork. There can be as many as 5% of facilities that sometimes get real flaky about sending payment, and I've been stiffed a few times when a facility has gone out of business or gone into Chapter 11 while still owing me money. Try to get paid at the gig if you can.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: musicmick
Date: 08 Aug 02 - 10:38 PM

Wow, Genie, that is a horror story. I trust it is the exeption rather than the rule. I've had a few unhappy recreators, in my day. There are more horse's asses than there are horses. I think that the best protection an artist can have is an agent. As I mentioned before, any artist is better off paying an agent than dealing directly with facilities. Your tale of woe would have been more tolerable if someone else was dealing with that wifty Activity Director. In fact, even if you cant find an agent to book you, you might get a friend to do your talking for you. I have a manager who deals with all the agents and clients and I never have to put up with nuts like your Wicked Witch of the West. Even before I had a manager, I had my wife talk to clients, not to solicit jobs, just to represent me. A spokesperson tends to get more respect, I dont know why.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Ferrara
Date: 08 Aug 02 - 10:47 PM

Marion,

Here is one more suggestion for finding the type of venues Genie mentioned. I don't know whether your local paper has a Health page. The Washington Post has a health section every Wednesday and there are always ads for retirement homes, etc. Every three months they have a Seniors' edition with many, many ads.

For me this was helpful because I could get a "feel" for each facility from their ad and also some of them specifically mention organized activities or stated that they have an activities director.

Rita F


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Ferrara
Date: 08 Aug 02 - 10:51 PM

Oh, also, last week I saw free copies of a small newspaper called "Seniors Bulletin," I think, that was being passed out at our corner drugstore. It's normally a subscription newspaper, they were trying to drum up business by giving it away. Naturally it contained a number of ads for nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and retirement communities.

Your locality may have this kind of weekly paper. Specialty drugstores, the kind that carry medical equipment, etc, or are affiliated with a medical center, may also have this kind of seniors' bulletin.

Rita F


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: M.Ted
Date: 08 Aug 02 - 11:10 PM

There is a big directory of all the facilities in the country(probably Canada as well), key staff, and info on the corporate systems, etc--a friend who is a medical administrator xeroxed the pages for my area for me--unfortunately, she didn't copy the title page, so I don't know what it's called--it is out there though--there is a lot of turn over in the industry, so try to find a very recent edition--


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 09 Aug 02 - 12:49 AM

Go to http://www.newlifestyles.com/click here. This organization provides free directories of senior homes, centers, and services for a large number of geographic areas. (I imagine the advertisers --i.e., the listed homes and services-- foot the bill for the directories.

You will also find various free newspapers such as "Senior Life" in the lobbies of various retirement and nursing homes. Nearly all have ads for various facilities, and some even have directories in them.

Also, call call a couple of the larger facilities in your area and ask the administrator, the marketing director, or the activity director for information on where to find directories and other publications of this sort.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 09 Aug 02 - 01:00 AM

Mike, yes, thank goodness, that story describes a very rare kind of event. But I do run into various flaky, mean-spirited, neurotic, and otherwise strange people -- just as in any business. In particular, the assertive/persistent posture you sometimes have to take to get through "Cerberus" at the front desk can be a turnoff to the guard dog herself/himself, and if the guard dog has power (formal or otherwise) s/he can make it difficult for you to get booked or rebooked. This is why an agent would be such an asset. Not only is a good agent good at this, but if the agent alienates a prospective client, the bad feelings are dierected at the agent--not necessarily at the performer. The question is, though, will a good agent work for what you can afford to pay them?

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: musicmick
Date: 09 Aug 02 - 03:49 AM

Of course, a professional agent will not work for what he/she could make from commisions from your nursing home jobs. There are two alternative solutions you might try. You could find a theatrical agency that would be willing to place your name on their list of artists that they call for jobs. These agents would not be your representatives, per se, but they would be a source of jobs and, incidently, a buffer between you and the client. As I have mentioned, I work with half a dozen different agents who call me with varying frequency. Two agencies deal with the senior market, which includes nursing homes, retirement communities and religious orginizations. If Seattle doesn't have agents who operate in well defined areas (and I'll bet they are there), you will have to deal with general theatrical agencies (You will find them listed in the Yellow Pages and see their advertizements in local publications classified under "Entertainment".) OR you can find someone among your aquaintence who might like to get into the entertainment field but lacks the talent or the nerve to perform. The world is filled with people who see performing as glamourous and exciting. Come to think of it, I am one of those people. Making a responsible friend your spokesperson is a good idea. You will appear more professional to the clients if you are represented.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 09 Aug 02 - 03:22 PM

Thanks for the further suggestions for finding facilities to call.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Ferrara
Date: 10 Aug 02 - 12:08 PM

First, Marion, Thank you for your link to the Heart and Soul Music thread.

(If anyone missed it, see Heart and Sould Music ... which I hope will end up as a blue clicky....)

The biggest factor I'm aware of right now in planning to do nursing and retirement home gigs is ... Sheer Terror. An old feeling of "Why would anyone want to have me come and make music for them?"

I think that deep down, I felt that if I sent a flyer to retirement/nursing homes offering to do music for pay, it would be seen as, "Doesn't she have a lot of chutzpah!"

Anyway, reading the Heart and Soul Music web site, I'm feeling less insecure. It is reinforcing the idea Genie and Mike have stressed, that you are doing a valuable service and should be paid for it.

After my first not-for-profit gig, there was a kind of snowball effect where I was called by people who had seen me, or read about me in the retirement community's newsletter, and asked me to sing for other organizations.

When the flood of referrals eventually dried up, I never pursued it. I always felt embarrassed and not worthy of all the praise my music was getting....

(At that time I was taking a lot more medications including prednisone for my heart transplant, and they do funny things to your emotions.... Besides I've been asked to a bit of performing at festivals since then and have developed a lot more confidence -- I think. :-)

BTW, Mike and Genie, my gigs two or three years ago were not for nursing homes but they did seem to contradict the "never sing for free" rule.

Most of the people I played for realized I should be paid for my time. If they didn't have an entertainment budget they said so up front. A few gave me the choice of being paid or not, understanding that if I didn't, the money would be available for the group's charity work. Others, who were not service organizations, just paid me. They were aware that I had been playing for free, and were aware of the kinds of not-for-profit organizations I played for, but they didn't assume I would -- or should -- play free for other groups.

Still, these were service organizations, not retirement, assisted-living, or nursing homes.

At one of my first gigs I was asked whether I was booked through a theatrical agency, so I know some organizations in this area do set up programs that way. Worth looking into.

Rita F


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 10 Aug 02 - 01:56 PM

Marion, the "flood of referrals" from your first gig is not surprising. (These places are, as the A. D.s often say, "always looking for new entertainers." and most will try you without an audition--especially if you're recommended by a prior client.)

But referrals are like seedlings. If you don't tend and cultivate them, they tend to dry up. By all means, keep the clients and prospective clients posted as to your interest and availability.

And if you go the agent route, tell us how that works out. I'm interested in hearing about your adventures in this kind of venue anyway.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Ferrara
Date: 10 Aug 02 - 06:09 PM

Umm ... Genie ... that last post about feeling sheer terror et cetera came from Rita, not Marion.

Marion sounds as if she's doing various gigs these days and just looking into nursing homes as an additional venue, is this right Marion?

I haven't done gigs, except for Folklore Society of Greater Washington events and festivals, in a couple of years. I am feeling some serious anxiety about trying to go looking for work, as compared and contrasted with having it drop into my lap so to speak the way it did two years ago. :-)

BTW I was always the same way back when computer programming was my day job. I hated looking for work, and usually found jobs by word of mouth. So this is a definite challenge for me.

Rita


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 10 Aug 02 - 08:42 PM

Thanks for correcting that, Rita.
Actually, I knew that, and I was, in fact, thinking of you and your situation as I wrote the post. Somehow, when I entered the salutation, my brain short-circuited (like when my dad calls me by both my sisters' names before he finally gets it right).

I understand the hating to look for work. I hate "selling" so much that I believe I couldn't sell food to someone who hadn't eaten in a week. But it does get easier, the more you make yourself do it. Also, this kind of terror is a good reason to use a printed flyer and letter to introduce yourself and say you'd like to be hired. You can take your time composing it, and the recipient can't see your fear the way they might in person.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Ferrara
Date: 11 Aug 02 - 04:06 PM

"I believe I couldn't sell food to someone who hadn't eaten in a week."

Yes, I'm turning my mind now to a flyer and letter. Also am looking for venues where I can try my wings, so to speak -- i.e. get a bit of experience and some "callouses" on my nerves.

Rita


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 13 Aug 02 - 04:00 PM

Rita, I'm working on my brochure too!

Here's another tip for finding facilities to call: I was looking for a "health page" in the newspaper, and I found the death notices and skimmed through them. I found half a dozen names of institutions.

I do have a paying gig once in a blue moon, but mostly I'm studying, jamming, busking, and dreaming. The reason that I'm planning on specializing in the senior's market right now is that while I hope to make my living from music, I feel a long way off from being able to play concerts as an "artist" or work as an instrumental hotshot. But maybe this way I can support myself as an entertainer while I work on becoming an artist; it's something I could learn to do in the short term, it wouldn't be smoky or sleazy, and it would provide me with some business/sound gear acumen. Although many of the songs that are seniors' favourites aren't really to my taste, some are, and I wouldn't mind singing the others if I see how much they are enjoyed.

Oh, and about volunteering vs. pay; for sure it is possible to get hired because of, or in spite of, playing for free. My friends' band got a monthly paying gig in a nursing home after volunteering there once the staff saw how much the residents loved them. However, I'm inclined to believe Genie and Mike when they say that volunteering is more likely to hurt than help your chances. My problem is that in the one nursing home where I've been volunteering regularly, the residents won't let me leave unless I promise to come back. I guess I have to keep volunteering there the rest of my life.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: GUEST,Nobby
Date: 14 Aug 02 - 12:18 PM

A good thread. I would have thought that looking at the age of most of the folkies out there performing most of them are on a day out from their home when you see them . a sort of care in the community.So if you get a gig in an old folks home you are playing to the current main line acts and they will simply steal any good new material you play. Either that or before you know it you have a full blown session going.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 15 Aug 02 - 03:23 PM

If there are any other Ontario people following this thread, here's a site to find facilities:

Ontario Residential Care Association

Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: GUEST,Marion
Date: 15 Aug 02 - 07:54 PM

Folks, I'd like to run my brochure by you for constructive criticism before I start printing up copies (I should note that after six long days of being in a working band I decided to launch a solo career).

So... an 8x11 sheet folded in three.

Page one:

Marion Parsons
Voice-Guitar-Violin
phone number
some graphics which I haven't decided on yet - maybe sheet music or drawing of instruments

Page two:

Marion Parsons specializes in musical programs which cater to the tastes and needs of senior citizens. These programs may take one of the following approaches:

SING-A-LONGS:
- songleading with guitar accompaniment
- material is entirely based on requests
- Marion provides large-print lyric books of well-known songs and rhythm instruments
- The tempo, pitch, and repetition of songs is aimed towards maximizing participation

PERFORMANCES:
- concert, or background for special event
- vocal, guitar, and violin selections; piano selections where piano is provided by the facility
- requests are honoured as far as possible
- songs are chosen from a wide range of genres and decades

OTHER:
- one-on-one room visits - "troubadour" approach (playing for shorter periods in many locations within a facility) - providing music for music therapy activities

page three:

Besides general programs that are appropriate at any time, Marion offers thematic programs:

-Christmas
-Valentine's Day
-St. Patrick's Day
-Christian or Jewish programs
-music for memorial services

Programs may be built around other themes on request.

pages four and five:

Sample Song List:

Sing-a-long standards
Classic popular songs
Instrumental selections
Country and folk tunes
Celtic ballads
Broadway themes
Sacred music

[and I would list six or seven sample titles in each category]

page 6

For further information or booking, please contact:

Marion Parsons phone number address email

Rates are negotiated according to the budget, location, and equipment needs of each facility. References and demo tapes are available upon request.

You'd hire me, wouldn't you ?:)

Thanks, Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 15 Aug 02 - 09:01 PM

Sure would, Marion!  *G*

Only one editorial comment:  Bill Gates's MS Word Spellchecker notwithstanding, "sing-a-long" is not a correct spelling of this word.  It can be a hyphenated word, "sing-along," or a compound word, "singalong," but it is not derived from the 3 words "sing," "a," and "long," as the Spell-checker spelling would indicate.*

(I think this widely perpetuated error started by someone looking at a dictionary entry that read "Sing-a•long."  The "•" indicates syllabication, not hyphenation, but in a small print dictionary, it looks like "Sing-a-long" if you don't look closely.  Once the error was incorporated into MS Word's Spellchecker, years ago, it spread like wildfire.  The more often it's printed that way, the more people think it's correct -- kinda like folks pronouncing "nuclear" "nucular.")

Sounds like you're all set to have a great business in doing music for seniors!

Genie

*I think this widely perpetuated error started by someone looking at a dictionary entry that read "Sing-a•long."  The "•" indicates syllabication, not hyphenation, but in a small print dictionary, it looks like "Sing-a-long" if you don't look closely.  Once the error was incorporated into MS Word's Spellchecker, years ago, it spread like wildfire.  The more often it's printed that way, the more people think it's correct -- kinda like folks pronouncing "nuclear" "nucular."


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 16 Aug 02 - 04:06 AM

Sorry about the duplication SNAFU above, Marion. Maybe a Joe clone will fix it and delete this post, too. I meant to substitute the footnote for the parenthetical explanation.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 20 Aug 02 - 07:11 PM

Thanks Genie. Please see your PMs.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: GUEST,Genie
Date: 22 Aug 02 - 02:20 AM

Marion, I just realized there's computer SNAFU in the post above re "sing-along." What the big dictionary gave was "sing-a¥long" -- i.e., a hyphenated word ("sing" with "along") with the second word broken into two syllables ("a¥long").


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Ferrara
Date: 22 Aug 02 - 02:58 AM

Marion, about the graphics on page 1 of your flyer, what about a good black&white photo of you? (If such a thing exists....) It's always nice to give people a recognizable image.

Rita


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 24 Aug 02 - 03:32 PM

I was wondering - do you often meet other musicians who are also specialists in seniors' programs, and if so, under what circumstances do you meet them? I'd like to have friendly relations with the local competition so that we can exchange local tips (like what's the Toronto Stephanie's name?) and refer ADs to each other if we can't take a job. But unlike the club scene, it seems like one performer isn't likely to hear others' shows, nor would you see bands advertised on telephone poles.

PS to Genie: your bullet points show up as Ys with two lines through them on my computers most of the time. The post where you said there was a computer SNAFU is the one time it did show up normally as a little circle. Just for your information.

PS to Rita: I don't think photos copy very well, and I'd like to be able to photocopy my flyers instead of having them printed. A drawing would be better, but I've been asking around and haven't found anyone who knows how to draw yet... anyway, how's your brochure coming along?

PPS to Genie and all: I've been thinking that we need a new Mudcat expression: SNAFPU, meaning "Situation normal: all folk processed up." Do you like it?

Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Ferrara
Date: 24 Aug 02 - 06:51 PM

Marion,

My brochure is purely in the imaginary stage right now. This works for me, actually, since I'm trying on various layouts and approaches, mentally.

The fall craft show season is about to be upon us, and I have made NOTHING since April (Bill is going strong though and says we'll be OK); I have a teensy part time job as manager for data entry, renewals and membership cards for the Folklore Society of Greater Washington (FSGW) and I'm struggling to keep up with it; I'm program chair for the FSGW Getaway; and I volunteered to place the ads for one of our craft shows, which I have never done before. (Good experience though, and it will help Bill's sales if the ads are good.)

And, my energy is limited.

SO, movement on the music project is slow. I'm thinking of next spring -- or maybe I should try to get some gigs for Christmas music.

I AM moving on it though. Today's project is a result of the "How Many Songs Memorized" thread. Haven't actualy seen the thread but Bill commented on it, and just-for-fun today I'm making a list of songs I know. I figure it will be helpful when and if I start doing gigs, and certainly useful at sing-around parties.

Not too many so far though, only about 230 songs. BUT, I'm only counting songs where I know most of the verses. So haven't counted something like "Till We Meet Again," where I just know the chorus. Not sure if this restriction is a good idea however. My experience is that people are very happy to hear even the chorus of a familiar song most of the time. Actually I think songs where I just know one verse should be OK, like "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen."

Bill keeps reminding me of more songs. It's fun. I guess I should look at the song lists in these threads. For example, I just remembered "Danny Boy," which is one I've known for many years. I'm sure I'd spot others. Genie, I believe Bill said you have a repertoire of close to a 1000 songs. That doesn't surprise me given the things you've said in these nursing home threads.

Anyway Marion, you are much farther down the road on this than I am.

I keep thinking I need a demo CD, but maybe not. I agree with Genie that a CD is better than an audition, but maybe I could go ahead and line up a couple of gigs by auditioning. Aaaaaarrrrrrgggghhhh! Scary! My hands will freeze and my fingerpicks will fall off and I'll make a perfect jackass of myself, I just know it!!!!

... Sorry. Just had to let it out. That's the kind of feelings that come up when I think of actually getting out there and lining up some gigs.

Rita


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Ferrara
Date: 24 Aug 02 - 06:54 PM

p.s. And, there's the matter of amplification. I really need to check it out and then be sure I am going to do enough work to justify the investment.

Rita


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: GUEST,Marion
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 06:10 PM

Genie, I'd like to know more about how confirmation forms work. Are they something that the home sends you, or you send them, or one signs and returns to the other?

I was thinking I could make up a simple contract letter with the terms of the gig and a cancellation policy - then if I get a gig more than three weeks in advance, I would send them this letter and ask them to sign it, make a copy for themselves, and mail back to me. Make sense?

Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 17 Sep 02 - 05:01 PM

Guess what? I just got a call to book my first gig (first gig of this project, not of my life)! I think this just may work...

Thanks again to all!

Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 17 Sep 02 - 05:23 PM

Marion, so glad to hear your project is coming along so well and so fast. Good on ya!

Rita, I do think confirmation forms are a good idea -- especially if you book a program while you are there in person and can get the signatures on the sheet without taking a lot of time. When you fax or mail them, sometimes people return them promptly (usually the responsible people/facilities, who need them the least), and other times they either won't be returned or you'll find that they aren't worth the paper they are written on. They are valuable as memory aids, in case either party forgets what time and date were booked and for what price. But if a facility chooses not to return the confirmation form or not to honor the oral contract, what are you gonna do?

I do use confirmation forms, when I have time, and when it's a high-demand time slot like Christmas Eve or St. Patrick's. But I have yet to devise a contract that covers what I want it to cover (e.g., they agree not to cancel me due to budget shortfall and then book someone else later for the same month; they agree to pay a cancellation fee if they cancel within two months of the gig without proper cause) yet would not be intimidating to prospective clients.

If anyone else uses contracts for this type of short, low-paying gig (e.g., for a one-time, one-hour program at a nursing or retirement home), I'd be interested in seeing the kind of contract you use and hearing how well it works.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: GUEST,Marion
Date: 18 Sep 02 - 02:53 PM

Hi Genie. Thanks for the further info on confirmation forms (and now you've balanced out calling Rita by my name by calling me Rita :).

I'm still interested in your response to this question from above, which you may have overlooked:

"I was wondering - do you often meet other musicians who are also specialists in seniors' programs, and if so, under what circumstances do you meet them? I'd like to have friendly relations with the local competition so that we can exchange local tips (like what's the Toronto Stephanie's name?) and refer ADs to each other if we can't take a job. But unlike the club scene, it seems like one performer isn't likely to hear others' shows, nor would you see bands advertised on telephone poles."

Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: GUEST,Marion
Date: 27 Sep 02 - 05:36 PM

Genie, you're right about everything! In my calls so far I've heard the exact words "We're always looking for new entertainers" more than once. And when I tried to reach an AD who hired me before and said she'd call me for the next party, I was told that she didn't work there anymore.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 02 Oct 02 - 04:51 PM

I'll relate some more of my ongoing adventures in telemarketing in the ongoing hope that Genie will notice my question two posts above :).

1. I usually say, "I'm calling because I'm a musician who specializes in programs for seniors. I'd like to know if you ever bring in live music to entertain, and if so, if I could send you a brochure."

One woman I spoke to simply said "No" to this, so I said, "OK, thanks anyway, have a good day," and started to hang up. As the phone was on the way back to the hook I heard her say something else, so I got back on the line, and it turned out that she booked me for a gig on the spot without my brochure.

I may have to rethink my long-held belief that telemarketers should understand that no means no.

2. Another receptionist I spoke to became kind of angry (at the home, not at me). It turned out that she herself was a semi-pro musician and had recently done a performance there for free. But when she asked to be reimbursed for her bus fare (around $4) and photocopying for the show, they had refused, saying that it was supposed to be volunteer offering. Needless to say, I'm not sending them a brochure.

(I asked her if I could take her personal number and refer work to her that I couldn't do, but she said no; she's mostly retired and only plays for ungrateful ADs who expect their own co-workers to pay for the privilege of performing.)

Marion



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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 03 Oct 02 - 03:12 PM

Marion, "No" can mean, "No, Nay, Never," or it can mean "You caught me in a bad mood (or at a bad time)" or "No to the hidden agenda I think you have" or "No to X" (when you are selling Y). In the case of ADs, it can (and often does) mean "I'm not booking anyone else for this month or the next few months." AD's sometimes do book for that time frame after saying that, due to cancellations, additional budget coming in for a special occasion, etc.

I don't think it's ever a bad idea to send a brochure with a cover letter to a facility even if your initial phone call has resulted in a rebuff. (Don't send more than one a year, though, without permission or unless a new AD takes over, and if specifically asked NOT to send one, DON'T.)

I thought I mentioned this in an earlier post to one of these threads:
It's hard to connect with the other entertainers since you are seldom booked for the same time period. I have met a few and exchanged cards and called them if I had to cancel and had them mention my name when they had to cancel. I would love to organize a network of entertainers who do senior facilities on a regular basis -- for referrals, sometimes to compare notes on facilities and ADs and admins, and occasionally to send a sort of petition to the facilities in the area (e.g., asking them to ask their staff and visitors to refrain from using cell phones and carrying on loud conversations during music programs, lectures, films, etc.--or trying to adopt a general policy about not cancelling longstanding bookings willy-nilly). But that takes a lot of work, and I don't know how good a response I would get from the other entertainers.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: wysiwyg
Date: 03 Oct 02 - 03:21 PM

There IS a network-- someone gave a link to it on some other thread or maybe this one. Sorry I can't recall!

~S~


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 03 Oct 02 - 04:09 PM

Thanks Genie. Your answer doesn't ring a bell; I guess I missed that thread.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 03 Oct 02 - 09:32 PM

Yeah, Sooz, there's a network for one community or another. What would be nice is similar networks within each geographic area. Rita, Marion, Jerry, Mike and I can't very easily fill in for each other or serve as referral sources, since we're so far apart.

Also, just as with the Musicians' Union, there are a lot of performers who aren't connected with whatever networks exist.

I have asked some ADs if I could look thru their card file, and I have gotten some leads that way, but other ADs are reluctant to give out phone numbers without permission. (I can understand that.)

If there is an AD association in your area, they could probably help get the performers networked, too.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 13 Oct 02 - 03:43 PM

Hmm... I've just gotten a message on my machine from someone I sent a brochure to. She says that she wants to talk more about my experiences and get some referrals from the Toronto area. This is a bit of a problem, since my first gig of this project is in a couple of weeks; my nursing home experiences have been volunteer, instrumental fiddle only, and in Ottawa and Nova Scotia.

What do you think would be the best response? I'm thinking of trying the "satisfaction guaranteed" thing, since I don't want to offer to audition. Or I could just suggest we talk again in a month when I'll have some references (I have seven gigs lined up now).

Marion

PS. Despite the sample brochure I posted above, I did not write "references and demo are available" on the first edition of my brochure, since I don't have either yet.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 13 Oct 02 - 10:35 PM

Well, Marion, you might call her and ask her what kind of references she wants -- e.g., references from other (paid or unpaid) music gigs, peronal (character) refererences, or general job-perormance references (e.g., are you reliable). If she insists on evaluations from other nursing home ADs where you've played, maybe your "talk again in a month" suggestion would be the way to go.

Good luck.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: 53
Date: 14 Oct 02 - 06:16 PM

do they pay anything?


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: GUEST,Dana in Denver
Date: 15 Oct 02 - 12:27 AM

I just found these great posts and am thrilled to find out there are so many musicians out there actually getting *paid* to sing at nursing homes. I LOVE to sing with elders and do so on a volunteer basis 2x or more per month. I always figured if I could get paid to do what I love I would be so grateful. My question is about 'music therapy.' (forgive me if this is another post somewhere) I wonder who out there is doing music therapy and what exactly does that look like? My vision is to do 20 to 30 minutes with someone one on one just singing to and with them some beautiful music. What would one sing for music therapy? What would one charge? If there is someone doing this please feel free to answer here or email direct at drrcc@aol.com.

Thanks so much!
Dana


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 15 Oct 02 - 01:13 AM

Hi Dana, and it's great to see your post. I hope you'll tell us about your experiences in these threads.

There's music therapy and then there's Music Therapy. To be a Registered Music Therapist involves a university training (with a lot of psychology as well as music) and certification, and is I think necessary to take a job as an institution's music therapist*. To the best of my knowledge there are two RMTs on Mudcat: Night Owl and Musicman (not to be confused with Musicmic). If you join as a Mudcat member (it's free) you can exchange personal messages with them.

However, the phrase music therapy is often used colloquially on this thread and around Mudcat, for when amateurs or pro musicians who are not licensed therapists use music therapeutically. Genie is a great person to talk to about this, and I'm sure she'll be along soon; part of her work is unofficial music therapy, and she's a neighbour of yours as well.

I've been calling up activity directors looking for work, and the ones who have spoken to me about what they might need or actually booked me have all been interested in concert-type events, not singalongs or one-on-one. So my early impression is that it's easier to get work with a performer hat on than a therapist hat.

A good thread for you to look at is: Music therapy. Towards the top of that thread are some links regarding Music Therapy as a profession. Later, in Katlaughing's post, there are links to some good threads where people talk about their experiences making music for people with special needs. Be sure to read the thread called "Music therapy - the original".

Cheers, Marion

*One other thing - a friend of mine got a full-time job at a nursing home as a "Music Therapist" although her only formal education was the first year of piano performance program. So it is sometimes possible to be hired as a music therapist even if you aren't really one. But this is practicing medicine without a license, and I think it would have been more responsible if she had insisted that her job title be changed to Music Director.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 15 Oct 02 - 02:50 AM

Actually, Marion, I'm not sure whether doing someone doing "music therapy"
who is not a certified/licensed music therapist constitutes "practicing
without a license" or not.   In the field of clinical/counseling
psychology or social work, there are licensed psychiatric social workers,
clinical psychologists, licensed family therapists, etc., but many people
(ministers, etc.) do "counseling" without violating the law or professional
standards.  Someone who is a licensed "music therapist" may have a
more definitive answer.  But to me the difference between "music therapy"
and "entertainment" -- in the contexts in which I do the two, overlapping,
kinds of activities -- has to do with the purpose and, to some extent,
the method.

I (and the activity directors) call it "music therapy" when the
goal is to:

 -- promote physical and/or emotional/mental healing
via the music,

 --  actively engage and stimulate the residents'
memory. general cognitive functioning and emotional responsiveness,
etc.

 --  help develop or maintain skills that will carry
over to other aspects of day to day living.

Sometimes I do this one-on-one.   (And, God! do I wish
the homes had the budget to afford the 20- to 30-minutes of one-on-one
with an individual resident!
)  This can involve singing songs
from someone's early childhood. native language, religious background,
etc., or songs that  have strong associations with other important
t imes in  their his tory.  It may also involve getting them
involved in singing along, doing rhythm accompaniment, "dancing" to the
music, or telling the stories that the music evokes.

In group sessions, my goals include getting folks to engage their memory
skills (e.g., recall memory, learning new refrains). rekindle emotions
that they may have lost touch with, laugh, move, talk with each other,
reaffirm their own competence, etc.

Programs that  are geared to entertainment may accomplish
some of the same  goals, but their main purpose is just that
-- diversion.    Often in a happy hour or when playing
background music for dinner,  there is no expectation that anyone
will even pay any attention to the lyrics I'm singing.  The goal is
primarily to sound good and make the music enjoyable.  The
songs don't have to be ones that the residents already know or that have
special significance to them.  If the AD hires Irish dancers for a
St. Patrick's party, there is no expectation that this kind of dancing
will evoke childhood memories,  directly stimulate cognitive skills,
etc.   It's something that folks enjoy, and that is important
in and of itself.

Here's an aside that may (I hope) make the point:

I have a doctorate in [life-span] developmental psychology (non-clinical)
and some post-doctoral study and employment in counseling.  I cannot
call myself a "clinical psychologist"  or "psychiatric social worker,"
or any of several other kinds of specific occupational names, since I do
not hold the relevant licenses or certificates.  But I have been
employed
as an adolescent and family counselor and mental health therapist,
under the auspices of agencies for which I worked in those capacities. 
As I see it, if the Recreation Therapy Director of a nursing home hires
me to do one-on-one music therapy   (e.g., by getting a native-born
German lady to sing the songs of the old country with me or by having me
sing special hymns to help a hospice patient  and their family deal
with impending death or by stimulating Alzheimer's patients' memories and
emotions via oldies sing-alongs), what I do is music therapy.  This
does not qualify me to do all that a music therapist might be required
to do. 
But I may be every bit as capable of doing certain kinds/aspects
of music therapy as are those who hold licences in the field.  
(If I prescribed drugs, I'd be guilty of practicing medicine without a
license.  If I told someone that their health would probably improve
if they got some exercise, avoided overeating, and tried to sleep at least
6 hours a day, I would not.  And if I told someone about the results
of medical studies, I would not. )

I don't mean to disparage those who have specialized in music therapy
and become certified.  Still, there is a phenomenon in American society
that  I find rather troubling -- namely, the piling on of time and
monetary hurdles to anyone's making a partially parallel move career-wise. 
(If I wanted to get a job as a nurses aide, despite my extensive educational
and employment backgound in the psychological and medical fields, I would
still have to take a number of hours of course work, at a considerable
expense.)  Getting certified in music therapy would cost even more
in time and money.  Usually, there is no way to "proficiency the course,"
as we used to say.     If it were simply a matter of
acquiring the important skills and knowledge and demonstrating them, personally,
I would go for certification in music therapy.  But I'm not at all
sure it would be worth the time and tuition money to enroll in formal courses. 
Some music therapists have told me that folks like me make as much money
ast they do, without the certificate.

Any other opinions, on either side, are most welcome.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 15 Oct 02 - 11:42 AM

Hi Genie. I am convinced that you don't need to be a licensed music therapist to use music as therapy - in fact you don't even need to be a musician for some ways of doing it. But since the term music therapy has a specific meaning in caregiving jargon which is more than the sum of its parts, I think we in the business have to use it more carefully than, say, people sharing stories in the Music Therapy - The Original thread.

I think music therapy has far less potential for harm than prescribing drugs, or counselling, but it has some potential for harm, and I wonder about the legalities of calling your work therapy.

For an extreme example, breaking a hip can have life-threatening complications for an elderly person (but I'm just passing on what I've been taught, that's not formal medical advice ;)). Suppose, God forbid, that someone fell down while dancing to your music and died as a result. Could it not be said that she died while being treated by a therapist who happened to not be qualified for the job? Couldn't that put you, or the facility that hired you, into a difficult situation?

I once talked to an RMT about non-licensed people doing music therapy. She agreed that many institutions will hire someone with that job title who have no credentials, but it wasn't a practice she approved of. She didn't say anything about the legalities of it, but of the potential for harm. When I asked what harm could come of it, she gave me two examples:

1. While music can raise a person's pain threshold, and doing so is a primary use of music therapy, it can be dangerous because if a person is playing along in a euphoric state they might be hurting their joints through improper technique without feeling it. RMTs are trained in helping people to play instruments in an ergonomic way.

2. If a person is having an intense emotional experience in a music therapy session, a person with no psychological training may not be able to handle or respond appropriately to all the feelings that come up.

I'm going to PM Night Owl and ask for her input here. I'd like to know better what the legalities of calling myself a therapist are.

I have also contemplated becoming an RMT, but I'm leaning against it. It would mean four more years of university to be able to do what I can (in my opinion) mostly do already. I think that I have some vocation to help make music accessible to people with special needs but that I can do that as a volunteer and as a "side effect" of working as an entertainer.

Cheers, Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 15 Oct 02 - 12:45 PM

related thread:   
neurobiology and music


 

"...I wonder about the legalities of calling your work therapy...." 
- Well, the states I work in seem to allow activity directors and recreation
therapy directors to count memory-stimulation music groups, one-to-one
room music visits, rhythm instrument groups, etc., as "music therapy." 
I don't use that term for all sing-alongs or strolling music I do,
and I certainly don't call it that when I'm playing for happy hour. 
I don't use the term for what I do unless the rec. tx director hires
me for an activity that he or she has already designated as "music therapy."

As for folks dancing while I'm playing and singing, that is usually
under the control of the facility staff, and they have liability insurance
partly to cover just such things.  (Usually they err in the direction
of caution -- keeping ambulatory residents in wheelchairs, e.g., because
they might fall while walking.)

If I am left on my own to do a group activity -- a situration I avoid
for groups of folks with various kinds of dementia and/or physical frailty
-- I don't invite folks to get up and dance.  (I often invite them
to move --e.g., tap their feet or clap along -- in their chairs.

The points that your RMT friend bring up are valid, but I don't see how calling something "entertaiment" or just "music" would keep those dangers from being present. Keep in mind
that residents in nursing homes have many kinds of stimuli and activities
as part of their "activities" or "recreation therapy" program which have
the same potential hazards.  Activity directors and/or  their
assistants and sometimes CNAs often conduct exercise classes.  Facilities
hiring licensed PT/OT people for all these activities is becoming rarer. 
I think the key is to work under the auspices and guidance of the staff
who are trained in those areas.  (In my case, I am not untrained
in matters having to do with ergonomics [I've taught courses where that
was part of the content], the psychology and physiology of emotions, although
the licensed music therapists probably have more training in that area.)

Sorry to leave this kinda up in the air.  -- I have to go do music
at an assisted living residence and a convalescent center.

...to be continued ...


Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: GUEST,Dana in Denver
Date: 15 Oct 02 - 01:43 PM

Thanks for the info! I'm a certified hypnotherapist by trade and I just love to sing and connect with children and elders. My husband and I teach a kids Peace Choir at our kids elementary school and we have over 300 kids involved in it! We sometimes perform at local nursing homes and the residents love to hear the children sing~

I am thinking about begining with us as a duo (Dave on guitar, my voice) and working from there. Will keep ya'll posted!
Warmly,
Dana


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 15 Oct 02 - 03:31 PM

I'm back, for a few minutes. It seems to me that the debate over the legalities and ethics of calling your work "music therapy" if you are not licensed or certified as a "Msusic Therapist" should have its own thread. It's kind of a side track for this thread -- connected, but the discussion can become somewhat tangential.

Re the topic of this thread, let's just say that many (most?) nursing and convalescent homes do not hire only licensed/certified music therapists to do musical programs or one-to-ones, even when those activities are "prescribed" for the resident(s) by the therapy/care team in the care conferences. Sometimes they use volunteers who are very much untrained in that area.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 15 Oct 02 - 07:00 PM

Dana, what's a Peace Choir?

Genie, I had also thought about starting a new thread, but I suspect that we've pretty much said all there is to say already, unless Night Owl wants to join in.

I know that the risks I mentioned exist whether or not the activity is labelled therapy, and that you personally are better able to avoid them than the average person. My concern here was not for the actual risks but the question of liability. A musician entertaining an audience member does not have the same responsibilities as a health care professional treating a patient. I think I'm being influenced here by my training as a Home Support Worker, where it was impressed on us that when working in that capacity our responsibilities and limits are different from those of a random friendly visitor. Also, I have a long bizarre story of my own, in which an autistic man in my care put both of our lives in danger because of his obsession with music.

But hopefully the fact that many facilities do hire non-licenced therapists means that it's OK, or at least that it's the facility's mistake if it's not OK. If this only happened once I would want to know if the AD also thought they speak Italian in Mexico, but I guess there's strength in numbers.

You said, "Sorry to leave this kinda up in the air. -- I have to go do music at an assisted living residence and a convalescent center." Cool... I was out this afternoon too, playing fiddle at the local nursing homes. I was volunteering (I know, I know, but this is my hometown and I don't think it'll compromise my big city career girl status) and I noticed that the AD in one place made notes on who attended. Now, on July 28 and 29 you told me that volunteering is a donation to the facility rather than the residents, and I doubted this because I was finding people sitting around doing nothing when I arrived and after I left. But now the fact that notes were being made suggests that my free show was actually "counted" by the home as part of their programming. When will I learn... Genie is always right!

Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Marion
Date: 13 Feb 03 - 06:20 PM

New silly question: at the end of my gig yesterday (which went very well, and they've already booked me again), as the AD came up to thank me, she gave me a handful of cash, right in front of the audience when their attention was still focused up front (i.e., not as people were milling about and leaving).

Am I overreacting, or was this a little uncouth? I found this embarrassing, and would have much preferred that she pay me privately, or at least with an envelope or something. I'm tempted to ask her to not do the same thing next time. But maybe it's not wise to criticize the hand that pays you in cash on the spot, no matter how inappropriate its timing.

What do you think?

Marion


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 15 Feb 03 - 05:37 AM

Marion, I had the same reaction the first couple dozen times an A D handed me cash right in front of the residents right after I played and sang for them. Nobody else (nurses, cooks, aides, etc.) gets paid for their services right after they provide them, and I do think it may detract from the beeeenefits the residents derive from the music. While I never pretend to be doing my music as a volunteer, I think that being handed cash right after I finish singing sort of says to the residents, "Don't forget, folks, she only comes to see you because we pay her."

I do think they should at least put the money into an envelope and hand you the envelope.

That said, though, I've got to admit that this practice is so common that I'm hardly fazed by it any more. (At least it keeps me from having to spend 15 minutes after my program tracking down someone to pay me.) And residents in general seem to be quite accustomed to seeing their entertainers paid by the A D.

If it does bother you, though, I see no harm in asking the A. D. to pay you outside the room or at least keep the money in an envelope.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: GUEST,Amy
Date: 18 Oct 03 - 02:38 AM

I am an Activity Director and have been one at both for profit and non-profit. I have also worked at a nursing home. It is true that we do get a budget-- however, that does not mean we can go hog wild booking many entertainers. Budgets vary from place to place, however, we have to think about-- equipment for exercise, food and decorations for parties, art supplies, resources-- I even worked at one place that I had to pay (out of my budget)paper for my Newsletters and ink for my computer. So, yes we do get a budget-- but most (here in the NW) entertainers charge 50 at most 65 unless it is for a special event-- and that means I can usually book 3, sometimes 4 entertainers a month. Entertainment is usually the most expensive part of my budget-- we really don't get huge budgets-- like some like to think! I sing myself and try to have a sing-a-long twice a month. However-- I like to try new performers-- and I sometimes question if a performer wants to volunteer or perform for very little-- I want my residents to have the best-- and the best are getting paid.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Beer
Date: 18 Oct 03 - 09:56 PM

Hi Marion;
   Great thread.
Worked in a Psychiatric setting for 35 years and in that time I was responsible for providing entertainment to approxmately 1000 patients (residents). This I did for 15 years before moving to a different department. I, like many, went out and did the club scenes looking for people who would give up a few hours of their time to come and entertain. Many musicians, before they would perform would say that they were nervous. I would say, "Yep!! you should be". Then I would look them in the eye and tell them the following. " If you can play before this audience then you will have played before one of the toughest and most "HONEST".
I am now retired and (55)entertain in my community nursing home with an accordian player, fiddler and another guitarest. We don't charge because we do it for "the love of it". A few weeks back I overheard the new person in charge saying to a very young musician (who was a guest,her brother.) not to play any sad songs because the folks didn't like sad songs. Well, when it came to my turn,I sang songs such as, A Prisoners Farwell, A Mother's Love Is a Blessing,Old Shep,The First Fall of Snow and so on. When I was finished she couldn't beleive the round of applause I received. I then took her aside and explained that these songs were number one hits for them. Yes , sad but songs of their youths. and times which should not be erased but brought back to memory. I don't think she understood. What the hell, when I'm old (not to far of) Please bring me some one who can sing Bob Dylan, John Prine, Gordon Lightfoot, Jerry Jeff Walker, David Massengill, Penny Lang, Tom Paxton and so on. If they don't know any of their songs then fuck off, because I will be at the age where I really don't give a shit and want to keep abrest with new musice.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 10 Nov 08 - 01:32 PM

Amy, I really do appreciate your perspective as an AD.   I know that budgets are often very tight, and most places can't afford to pay more than one entertainer a week.

I do run into ADs who choose to use only volunteers, and in truth, SOME volunteers are top-notch musicians. (E.g., I know some excellent bluegrass groups and players who play for nursing homes as volunteers. Then there's the wonderful Boeing Choir in the Seattle area, who perform as amateurs despite being very high "professional quality.")   But there are two problems with relying on volunteers:
1) Sometimes people who volunteer don't see the booking as a commitment in the same, serious way as they would a paid gig.    I'm told volunteers are "no-shows" far more often than paid performers are.
2) Few entertainers can afford to do a LOT of unpaid gigs.   Hence, it's hard to book all the desired spots with volunteer entertainers, especially high-quality ones.   
(If you do a gig for "business," you can write off over 40 cents per mile for travel, for example. If it's as for "charity," your mileage deduction is only about 15 cents per, and if it's as a "hobby, you can't write off any expenses at all.)


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 10 Nov 08 - 01:48 PM

Marion, back to the original focus of this thread, I thought I'd mention that internet sites like YouTube, FaceBook, and even other just-plain audio/video upload and download sites can be a great boon to getting bookings.

I am finding that more and more activity directors are wanting some sort of "audition" before hiring a new person. But, as I've illustrated in this or other related threads, doing in-person auditions for potentially one-time gigs that pay under $100 a pop is a real losing proposition.   (For one thing, the AD you auditioned for may be gone the next month, leaving you back to square one. Or the budget can be slashed, the facility sold to a new owner, etc. And if you do one audition and get one paid gig out of it, you've basically done two gigs for the price of one.   Unless the "audition" is for an ongoing, regular booking, with a contract, I'd advise against it.)

Some ADs say they're fine with a CD or tape, but it can get expensive making and sending those out too.   But if you have a good audio or video file, it's easy to make it available online now and send people the link.   If you have your own website, that's even better, but YouTube and some other sites are free.

I've found it easy to make decent music videos of some of my gigs using my MacBook with the built-in camera and mic. Then I can make shorter clips from those and send them to people as video files (e.g. Windows Media) or post them online.   

Ain't technology wunnerful!?


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Mark Ross
Date: 10 Nov 08 - 07:40 PM

I just started calling every nursing home and assisted living facility in the Yellow Pages. Over the next few months I've already gotten four paid bookings, not for a lot of money, but if I can put together enough of them, may be I can actually make a living doing this........ dunno I've only been working at it for 41 years.


Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 07:23 PM

Don't forget to look under "Retirement Home," "Senior Center," and "Adult Day Care" as well.
Those places usually pay for entertainment as well, but most of them are not in the "Nursing and Rehab. Centers" or "Assisted Living."

Of course, the repertoire you use for the higher-functioning groups (e.g. Independent Living or Senior Centers) will probably be quite a bit different (and probably musically more satisfying) than what you would do for a nursing home or memory care unit.   

You probably can make a living at it if you approach it as a business, but, as with most every other aspect of the economy these days, entertainment budgets for senior facilities keep getting slashed further and further.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Michael Harrison
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 10:28 PM

Genie is mostly correct - budgets for senior facilities keep getting slashed further and further. I perform at quite a few senior facilities and it just breaks my heart because the "memory" units and most of the "assisted living" units are the ones that need the music the most, yet, they pay the least. Many of the "independent" facilities don't really need entertainers to come in because the residents can go out themselves (in many cases) whenever they want; however, the "memory" and "A/L" folk are basically locked in and are stuck with whatever entertainment is found for them. It seems that the lower the cognition of the residents equates to the amount of expenses the corporations will afford for entertainment and social functions. Cheers,...................mwh


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Genie
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 10:50 PM

So right, Michael.

And, sad to say, my experience is that in general the ones who can/will offer the least - both in terms of money and in terms of schedule flexibility - are the ones who take a booking the least seriously.   They are the most likely, when a new activity director or manager comes on board, to just cancel or disregard all the bookings previously made (sometimes without bothering to notify people of the cancellations).   
It seems to be an example of your perceived value being a function of how high or low your price is.
It's very frustrating, when I try to bend to accommodate clients' budgtary boundaries, to find that flexibility 'rewarded' by my services being devalued.

Still, doing music for the frail elderly or cognitively-impaired people can be very rewarding in and of itself.   If I didn't need the income, I'd be inclined to do a lot of this music gratis.
Part of me would say don't do it, because you'd be offering unfair competition for other musicians who do need the income. But I do all sorts of jams and sing-alongs and open mics (not to mention my church choir) without pay, so I can understand those who do provide music to various places as volunteers.


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Michael Harrison
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 10:20 PM

Genie - yes, the A/D switches are a real problem and will probably continue to be so. There is one money problem, however, that had to be dealt with by me alone - the bottom line.

I usually approach a facility asking for one-half of my regular corporate rate, which most of the rehab, A/L and memory units simply cannot (or will not) afford. Prior to a few weeks ago I simply employed a "bottom line" and would turn down any work that did not pay at least that amount; however, during this last election period I found myself chastising the republican politicians for not wanting to do anything to help "the public sector" unless they could make a profit from it.

I still believe that most of them feel that way, but it caused me to have to take a look at myself as well because the folks who reside in those rehab, memory and A/L units really like for me to come and play for them. There's no comparing what I do to saving New Orleans post Katrina, or anything like that, but, I decided to go in as usual but accept any fee they will afford me - not for myself, not for the corporation, but for the folks who deserve to have some fun in their lives. It won't set the world on fire but it is one small musician giving something back to the folks despite the corporation trying to suck them dry. Hang in there Genie, give those A/D's hell and keep singing. Cheers,.............mwh


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: GUEST,ChillinD23
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 09:23 PM

I wanted to thank EVERYONE here , Genie, Marion, everyone for being so helpful by contributing to this forum. I am an alto sax player and am just beginning the journey of acquiring gigs in this "circuit" if you will. Many of the musicians in my area do not like competition from musicians that play the same instrument as them so I am looking into this as I do need money and it is a wonderful service to provide for the elderly as well. If anyone is interested, I have a video of my playing up on youtube.

And yes, I do realize I will have to "tone it down" in terms of the jazzy-ness and bebop elements to more recognizable standards and sing-alongs. Thanks everyone!


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Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
From: Barbara Shaw
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 10:16 PM

Frank and I play for free at the nursing homes of friends and family, and we receive payment at others that ask us to play. Most of the songs we do are old folk and bluegrass classics which many residents have never heard before, but which are surprisingly well-received. In fact, the residents (and staff) like this variation from their usual entertainment. Music is truly universal.


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