Since 2000, I've brought music and paintings to six Berkshire Healthcare settings through the Community Access to the Arts Art Cart program. Visiting people one-on-on in their rooms with my rolling Art Cart, I bring a picture for the wall and an original or old time favorite song. I also work with two memory care groups.
I usually bring my guitar, six string ukelele, RAV Vast drum, or tank drum, which is a recycled propane tank that plays meditative, healing sounds. We have written poems and songs together, and through Story Corps one year I recorded people's stories. I have also worked with HospiceCare in the Berkshires.
One of my favorite instruments is the RAV VAST drum, meditative and resonant. I bring it room to room to play, sometimes creating songs. Residents also can strike each note with a mallet. No one wants to give the drum back!
One resident, who was 103 years-old and deaf, had such a look of joy and surprise when she felt the vibrations from each note as she struck them. All those around her had big smiles too…”Theresa is making music!” they exclaimed.
The Art Cart Performs
Directed by: JoAnne Spies
Singer, songwriter and Art Cart troubadour, JoAnne Spies transforms the words and stories of Berkshire Healthcare nursing home residents into song and performance.
This performance at Shakespeare & Company begins in the dark, so there’s a 5 second delay.
Video created for Community Access to the Arts with residents from six Berkshire Healthcare settings, Youth Alive and others.
Here Fred and I sing, celebrating his 104th birthday.
At Kimball Farms in Lenox, MA and WIlliamstown Commons I work in the memory care unit.
Each line in this poem is from residents at Mount Greylock Extended Care
Poem for Spring
This weather’s not for me
I’ll take the spring and the music
The warmth, flowers bursting out, their beauty
I like the change,
The grass growing,
Seeing the notch on the thermometer go up
So much I like it’s hard to say
I love the mud, the spring peepers,
The smell of the air,
Green coming into the trees,
I saw a pure red cardinal
And a bunny with a fluffy tail
I like everything about spring
It’s when baseball season starts
The birds coming back
The pussy willows
The spring flowers, daffodils. Their bright colors
The cicadas are coming back after 17 years
When the ground gets to 42 degrees they start talkin’.
August 5th and 6th - 2017 Bridgeport, CT
"Story Songs: Using Poetry and Song to Build Community"
Here are notes from my presentation. Thank you to Lynn Miller, Lynn Saltiel and Music for People colleagues for a rewarding conference.
SHARE YOUR PASSION
How might your interests/ art form meet the needs of the group?
SET UP YOUR CIRCLE
Greet and 'interview' each person in the circle if the size of the circle permits
Share names / simple gestures of each person
Begin with an icebreaker / group movement song
'HAND IN HAND' PROGRAM
Look at paintings of hands: what objects might they hold? what work have they done?
what emotions do they convey?
Rich stories can be told from residents' drawings of their own hands
WARM-UPS AND GROUP ACTIVITIES
Lead group in warm-up with 'air piano playing' to your favorite piano tune
Invite participants to move their hands in different shapes (circles, spirals, etc) to a lively song,
then contrast movement of shapes with a slow song/ textures/ dynamics.
Appoint a conductor to lead the group. 'Freeze' movement when conductor stops music.
Take turns with other conductors moving fast/slow., etc.
Play a melodic song and invite hands to follow melody up and down.
Invite participants to tell a story using their hands with a beginning, middle and end in one minute.
No words needed, use different styles of music.
Duets: one tells a story with their hands, while the other interprets the story.
Switch places with the listener creating rhythm for the story told by other's hands.
CREATE A GROUP SONG
Choose a style of song: blues, country or a song you know and love well
Ask folks in your group a question that interests them:
what work did they do with their hands?
Where are they from? How are they feeling?
Gathering these words into a song makes for a satisfying and celebratory ending to a session.
The words you gather fit rhythmically into the verses of your song.
Get input from the group and work together to get your song sounding the way you like.
"Peace Like A River," "Amen" or any personal favorite that people can join in to sing