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UVMC and Senior Center Supply Music & Food

student pianist plays while a senior enjoys music from the car

Each week at 11:45 am UVMC students and faculty set up under a tent in the parking lot of the Upper Valley Senior Center in Lebanon and revel in the opportunity to share their music with people who aren’t on a screen. Their audience? Seniors in their cars, driving though to pick up meals at the Senior Center’s “Grab & Go” event.

Upper Valley Music Center (UVMC) students have been performing for seniors in the Upper Valley for many years. At assisted living centers, advanced care facilities, and senior centers throughout the area, young musicians share their talents with seniors, many of whom don’t have the opportunity to attend concerts frequently or to visit young relatives.

This year UVMC’s outreach concerts for seniors will look a little different than usual as a result of COVID-19 precautions employed by UVMC and its partners. At the Upper Valley Senior Center (UVSC), daily congregate meals were put on hiatus back in March of 2020 to prevent the spread of the virus. In July, the Grafton County Senior Citizens Council regrouped and began providing “Grab & Go” meals, where seniors drive through to pick up a meal.

Becky Foster, the Activities Coordinator at UVSC, connected with UVMC Executive Director Ben Van Vliet through Lebanon’s Arts & Culture Commission. Since July, a UVMC student or faculty musician has attended the weekly drive-through meal delivery and performed for seniors as they sit in their cars and wait for their turn to pull up and collect food.

Restrictions on the number of participants and physical distancing requirements mean regular student ensembles can’t gather, but that change has fostered a revival of family bands. Siblings play duets, parents accompany their children (or hold the music!), and in some cases the whole family brings an instrument to play together.

This kind of collaboration is more than just a feel-good moment: it furthers the missions of both organizations. The UVSC attracts a high number of seniors to their congregate meals by offering music, arts, and other social activities that ensure seniors regularly receive check-ins from staff and healthy meals. For UVMC, performance in the community is a key part of the educational process in lessons, giving students an opportunity to share their music and receive validation for their hard work.

Grab & Go meal events with UVMC performances will continue through the end of October. When the cold November air precludes outdoor performances, the connection between music students and Upper Valley seniors won’t be snowed out. UVMC’s Performance Coordinator, Jennifer Turbes, is busy planning ways to help connect students and seniors online, so the performances will continue until everyone can gather safely in person again.