Residents at personal care homes across the province will receive a much-needed infusion of joy in the coming months thanks to efforts by a Winnipeg piano teacher and his students.
"My students and I have initiated a community outreach program to reach as many as 10,000 of our elders living in personal care homes across Manitoba, including all five care homes in Brandon, to help lift their spirits this winter and spring," stated Corey Francis in an email.
Francis – who runs a Winnipeg music school called Piano Expressions with Corey – and his students call the virtual piano recitals Sharing is Caring. Monthly recitals, beginning Jan. 22 and continuing to June 22, will see recreation directors receive a link to a Facebook event.
The project includes a program describing the music, as well as original art by the students.
These recitals may be viewed either in a one-on-one setting, with staff and volunteers bringing a tablet to show student performances to the residents in their rooms, and put up a photo of student artwork in their room, or they may choose to set up a laptop/projector and watch the recitals safely in small groups, Francis stated.
Residents will then have the option to comment on students’ performances.
"My students will then be able to read the comments from elders and will, in turn, be motivated to write letters and create artwork to send back to them," Francis stated.
"This program facilitates an important connection between elders and younger generations through music, artwork and virtual communication."
As Francis noted, before the pandemic, his students would perform regularly in care homes around Manitoba to entertain residents.
"While we haven’t been able to perform in care homes since March 2020, we have continued our lessons and recitals through online platforms," he said.
Francis himself has worked as a recreation manager, as well as working five years as program co-ordinator and musician for the organization Artists in Healthcare, MB.
The project is a volunteer effort by Francis, his students and his students’ families.
"The pandemic has been incredibly difficult – most of all for our elders. Dozens of personal care homes have had COVID-19 outbreaks, and one can only imagine the challenges that nursing and recreation staff face each day, working tirelessly to prevent loneliness and isolation. My students and I would like to help in the ways we can," Francis stated.