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Graduate Student Swaps Piano Performances for Seniors’ Home Stay

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Quick Smiles:

  • An accomplished graduate student exchanges piano performances for accommodations at a seniors’ facility.
  • Through her musical talents, Beth Christensen dissolves age barriers and crafts genuine friendships with the seniors.
  • This innovative venture aids both sides, strengthening rich intergenerational bonds and offering Beth a distinctive audience for her performances.

Visualize a concert pianist residing in a retirement home. This unique scenario is a reality for Beth Christensen, a university graduate studying piano at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory. Unlike her peers, Beth doesn’t reside in a campus dorm but lives at Claridge Court, a senior living facility in Prairie Village.

Beth’s move to the seniors’ home was not by accident. A partnership between the Conservatory and Claridge Court saw her placed there as a resident student in July 2023.

The experience has been extraordinarily unusual. In Beth’s words, “It’s truly fun to have a relationship with your audience as a performer.” Beth began with classical music performances or duets with vocalists, but as her comfort level grew, she started playing more contemporary tunes.

“As I grew more at ease, I experimented with new styles and more modern music. Sometimes my audience wouldn’t take a liking to it, and they were sure to tell me. Others, however, love seeing the progression of music. It’s enjoyable to ask what kind of music they wish to hear and integrate it into my performances.”

In exchange for her stay, Beth is motivated to participate actively in community activities, from regular performances to inviting other Conservatory musicians to play at the facility. Her non-performance time in the home is spent participating in activities like ‘chair volleyball’ or engaging in discussions about education with Pat, a retired educator and one of her new friends.

Benefactors of this intergenerational project include Claridge Court residents, Charlie and Mary Kay Horner, who have a longstanding connection with the Conservatory. Together with the director of Claridge Court, they are overjoyed by Beth’s positive influence on their community.

Mary Kay Horner stated, “We are absolutely delighted that Beth has become such a crucial part of our community. Observing the relationships she’s built with the residents is remarkably rewarding.”

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Beth finds immense value in this unique setup. “It bridges the gaps that exist between individuals. The chance to build relationships with a community several generations older than me is truly special. These bonds don’t erase our differences, but they do help us appreciate one another more. It’s been an exceptionally beautiful experience.”

Indeed, music is a captivating universal language that bridges all manner of divides, including age. The story of Beth Christensen beautifully attests to this fact.

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