The performances may be familiar for the residents at the Northwest Health Centre, but the delivery has changed for guitarist, Jared Snyder, who now plays his songs through Zoom, an online video conferencing service.
Snyder has been playing guitar for 27 years and regularly performs throughout northern Alberta with his band FIREBAN.
He began the shows at the long-term care centre shortly after moving to the town in 2014 and soon discovered some new fans.
“Somebody told me … that playing music is great, but to have somebody appreciate you playing it makes it a far … better experience,” says Snyder. “That is definitely the case for me.
“When I first started playing gigs at the [seniors’ centre], I wasn’t really sure what the atmosphere would be like. It is actually very lively, a lot more than I originally anticipated and, now, it is like this fun party we have every month,” Snyder adds.
“Staff members from other departments will take their break when they know I’m playing, so they can come down and dance with the residents. It’s a lot of fun and very rewarding for me as well.”
His friend Carl Blanchard also plays quite often and another friend Mike Petkus has come out a few times too.
“We turn it into a bit of a jam, and it is always a blast,” said Snyder.
He was able to add more elements to his performance using Zoom, but he admits it was a little different not having the face-to-face interaction with his audience due to social distancing.
“I was able to run all the sound through my mixer and I piped all that sound into the computer,” he explained. “They were getting really good audio on their side, it wasn’t just a computer microphone picking up the sound, so it gave me a lot more possibilities for what I could play. I was able to play some finger-picking songs and my electric guitar, so I had fun playing some blues and old-school rock and roll tunes for them.
“I was able to do a bit more musically … and I got to show them more of what I can play on a regular basis. I was also able to play for High Level as well as Fort Vermilion residents at the same time.”
Recreation Therapist, Ellen MacDonald, said having performers like Snyder really lifts residents’ spirits.
“Having Jared come in once a month was one of the biggest things that residents looked forward to, because he is such a great entertainer,” said MacDonald. “He appreciates long-term care and gears his entertainment for the residents that are in long-term care, so, for them, not being able to see one of their favourite performers is huge.
“They usually put their dancing shoes on and get up there and dance.”
Prior to COVID, staff would often come over from other areas and dance with the long-term care residents, but that has been halted, she said.
“It takes [residents] a little while to understand that he is not physically in the building, but they are still so excited.”
Snyder said his band normally performs 1960s and 1970s rock, as well as country music.
“When I first started playing these gigs, I was playing a lot of really traditional, older music,” Snyder recalled.
“[Jared] appreciates long-term care and gears his entertainment for the residents that are in long-term care, so, for them, not being able to see one of their favourite performers is huge.”
– Ellen MacDonald
“Some of it was church and folk music from the ’50s and ’60s and then, once in a while, I would throw in a John Cougar Mellencamp or Creedence Clearwater Revival song. I found that the reaction from those songs was great and residents loved hearing that type of music, so then I really started playing whatever I wanted … I try to think of it like a campfire in some ways where you want everyone to participate, so you try to play songs that everybody knows.”
Snyder said performing for long-term care residents is important to him.
“Elders certainly deserve our respect and [should] not to be forgotten about,” he adds. “My grandma is living in the Manning Community Health Centre, so I know when I go entertain them, they appreciate it.
“The thing about music is it is inter-generational,” Snyder explains. “Even though my grandma listens to music that is quite a bit different than what I’m listening to now, I can still get into the music that she listens to and she appreciates the music that I’m playing. Music is quite a bonding agent [when] you can experience [it] together.
Snyder said he is looking forward to performing for residents in person again.
“You see the same people every month and develop relationships with them,” said Snyder. “I can tell they appreciate it, and I get to know some of their favourite songs. They have requests, so I will go home and learn a song, so I can go back and play it for them.
“It is awesome to be able to give back.”
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