Jazz Sanity: All jazzed up

Music can bring back memories. Music can rekindle old emotions. Music can span generations. And music is what jazz band sophomores Dylan Song, Alice Koo, Erik Ingram and Matthew Steinberg give to the elderly at the senior homes of Bridgecreek and Regency Grand.

Song and Ingram formed the quartet, Jazz Sanity, for their requirement of 40 hours of community service in order to be Confirmed by their church. Song decided to play music in order to gain his necessary hours, and thus, the concept of performing was born. Several friends joined him and created a quartet out of a pianist, a drummer, a bassist and a saxophonist.

“At first I was accordingly doubtful of both the legitimacy of the invite and of my ability to play well enough to perform. I’m not sure why I said I’d go, but I thought it’d be a good opportunity to improve my skills. I didn’t want to turn down an invitation of that sort, and it sounded fun,” Koo said.

The two senior homes’ proximity allows Jazz Sanity to perform at both homes on the same day. About a month before each performance, the musicians select the pieces they want to perform from Real Books, which are collections of jazz standards, or the compositions of Steinberg.

“I enjoy playing music with my friends and generally am able to get more time to express myself as a musician,” Song said. “I get to give back to the community using a skill I’ve practiced for years.the reactions of the residents each time is special and different, and they love that they can remember the music.”

In order to prepare for their monthly performances, the members get together once a week to practice their chosen set list and bond. Oftentimes the friends hang out together before or after the practices and have dinner together. The all-jazz music chosen by this quartet ranges from the 1940s to the 1990s, which was specifically selected so that the seniors might recognize some of the scores.

“Us playing for them will bring back old memories and happy times,” Ingram said. “You’ll just hear people saying thank you and clapping. It’s really touching. To have people play music, especially music from their era, it’s encouraging for them to see that there are still people who enjoy that kind of music and are willing to help them experience those times again.”

The quartet has faced many positive reactions to their performances such as the senior citizens singing and dancing along. The musicians are often verbally thanked for their music, and several of the elderly often come up to personally to thank the the quartet.

“Back when we first started, we played this famous song called ‘Moonlight Serenade.’ One of the ladies there started singing along to it, and we were in the section for treating dementia patients. She wasn’t completely lucid, but I’m sure the music brought back memories to her.” Song said. “It made me realize that music is timeless; it served as a powerful reminder of the time when she loved to listen to the pieces we were playing.”

Despite having fulfilled the volunteer hours, Jazz Sanity still books performances with the nursing homes. The quartet decided to continue playing because of the experience it gave them as musicians and the gratitude they received from the seniors.

“I definitely improved the way I play. Because of the quartet I’ve learned how to play jazz. I’ve gotten more experience and have just become better,” Koo said. “Also it’s nice to see the elderly enjoying our performances, and honestly, I really just like the environment, the people, the music and being able to play for them.”

By Nicole Chiang, Staff writer
Photo by Airi Gonzalez