In order to “rage against the dying of the light” as Dylan Thomas so eloquently instructed us in his poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” we enter the golden years holding our hearts open to the visceral moments that weaved the cords of a good life: Our families, our loves, the tragedies and triumphs, and our songs.
As we age, the depth of our memories can be strengthened by a familiar tune that takes us back — and full circle — to the people we were, and are, and will be. So it’s sad to consider that opportunities to experience live music are diminished for senior citizens who live in care centers and other communities.
Local musician and producer Dean Mueller realized the need for live music in senior communities and formed Fly Me To The Moon, a nonprofit organization based in Portland whose mission is to bring high quality performances directly into their homes — the care facilities. “Scientific evidence shows the benefit of bringing music to these facilities. But it’s more than that. Having a positive impact on their emotional state hits you in the heart. You have to give the music they want to hear. So, we provide music that stimulates memory and takes them to a sweet place, hence the name Fly Me To The Moon,” he explained.
His first performances at senior centers created an impetus to form Fly Me To The Moon. “We were loading in the gear and there were lines of seniors in wheelchairs and with walkers waiting to get in before the doors opened. During the show, about a hundred people were singing along and dancing; some were crying. There was this heartwarming connection, and when we played Crazy, the whole room exploded in love. I thought, this is having an impact, and we’ve gotta do it again.”
The late Jim Miller was an inspiration to Mueller in forming the organization. “I heard from many people about the good work by Jim Miller in bringing music to seniors. His are some big shoes that can never be filled, but if I can carry on his work in the same spirit, it will be an honor,” he said.
Fly Me To The Moon received fiscal oversight sponsorship by the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. Its focus in 2019 will be to deliver at least fifteen performances in local area senior communities. “Oregon’s music scene is rich with musicians who deliver a wide array of music that appeals to seniors,” said Mueller. “Many of these musicians are hungry to give back to their communities by offering their performances to audiences who don’t have access to traditional venues,” he added.
Mueller hopes to tap these musicians by supplementing the limited — or nonexistent — budgets most senior communities can pay for the performances. “I have gotten plenty of requests to arrange the shows, but there’s not enough money to cover expenses or pay the performers. So this will let us pull together quality events that benefit the seniors and compensate the musicians for their time.”
Merry Larsen, board member and Marketing Director of Courtyard Village Raleigh Hills, explains it well: “Listening to music has always been an integral part of life for our seniors. It began with listening to the radio, moving to the melodies on the dance floor, being touched with the emotions it brought in church. Music has been the fabric that built their relationships with each other and within their community. They are subsequently losing this ‘fabric’ when their ability to spend time with others is limited. When they gather for musical performances, they quickly return to those feelings of joy, hope, peace, emotion, and the sense that everything will now be alright with their souls. They deserve for us to give back the gift of musical rhythms.”
Fly Me To The Moon kicked off its fundraising cycle for 2019 with a holiday event at Lake Theater featuring LaRhonda Steele and Julie Amici, and a holiday show at the Juanita Pohl Center. A Valentine’s Day performance will follow on February 13 at The Springs at Tanasbourne.
To make a donation, find Fly Me To The Moon on Facebook, or go to https://squareup.com/store/Fly_Me_To_The_Moon .
Missi Hasting Baker is the co-leader of Mojo Holler, a Portland-based roots Americana and blues band.