Volunteering came later in life for musician Gerry, now in his 80th year. Music is part of his DNA. Gerry’s mother was a trained soprano, and he grew up listening to her beautiful singing around their home.
When visiting his wife Christina, a resident at HammondCare Wahroonga, Gerry started playing a few tunes at the piano after lunch - and he could immediately see how much not only his wife, but other residents loved it.
When Gerry’s daughters heard about the reaction he was receiving during his impromptu performances, they encouraged him to volunteer, knowing it would give him a sense of purpose being able to play his music - while also bringing people joy. But volunteering took on its own twist from there.
“Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t great,” he says, “COVID restrictions back then meant any interaction with residents would be put on hold.”
Instead of playing music for everyone to enjoy, Gerry was asked to assist with additional COVID protocols required for visitors to Wahroonga, and he happily obliged.
Music brings people together
As restrictions eased, Gerry got down to the happy business of entertaining residents with his regular singalongs. Now he’s performing three times a month with his ‘side kick and roadie’ volunteer Persis. And Gerry has made music books for residents to follow, getting everyone involved, and creating a real sense of occasion.
An added bonus Gerry’s found is being in the same age group as many residents, they have a lot in common and share stories from the past. Special occasions residents enjoy are the themed music days, like ANZAC Day, when Gerry takes requests and everyone gets involved, singing and tapping their toes.
“We recently performed a rendition of Rock Around the Clock for a resident who didn’t have long to live. I was keen to play one of her favourite tunes for her and her family and provide a happy memory from that day.”
Gerry’s passion for music keeps him busy – outside of volunteering for HammondCare he also helps to run a recorder group for seniors, is an associate conductor with a local male choir, and arranges music scores.
And this passion is shared by his family: “My daughter Sarah plays the flute and my granddaughter Alana, who also just started volunteering at HammondCare, plans to bring her euphonium to play to the residents.
“I wish I’d started volunteering a long time ago. Volunteering has filled a real need for me, while also providing an opportunity for people to enjoy my music.”
Volunteer Coordinator Lulu loves it when Gerry comes to HammondCare Wahroonga to spend time entertaining the residents. “Gerry creates a great atmosphere, he radiates energy, is interested in everyone and can get even the most reluctant audience members to at least listen, if not sing along with the group”.
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