I taught K-5 music for 11 years and left teaching in 2004. I was burned out and really had lost the desire to teach. I never felt like I would be able to figure out what would make me truly happy. About two years ago I started playing the piano at my mom’s assisted living facility. It was mainly for her but then I started to realize that the residents enjoyed it as much as my mom. The director at my mom’s said "You really should take this on the road. They love you!"
I combined my teaching and musical experience with my experience with senior citizens over the years and "Christine Sheil Music" or "Sharing the Joy of Music" was born. I do concerts, sing alongs, Name that Tune, Singing Bingo and much more. I’m always thinking of ideas for new activities. What I quickly learned is that it’s not necessarily about the music. It’s the memories that the music stimulates—first loves, war, vacations, children, happy times… And the people want to tell me stuff afterwards. Like one guy I met wearing a Vietnam Veteran cap. He lived there with his disabled daughter. He told me how much he loved the songs and how it brought back memories for him. And then he started to tear up as he told me that his daughter sat next to him and "sang every damn song" that I played. "Every damn song" he kept saying. And he was grateful. I think of the hundreds of seniors that I’ve played for in dining rooms and common living rooms over the past year —the look on their faces—the smiles and hugs—the stories they are dying to tell me—and I wouldn’t trade this wonderful job for the world.
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