A few years ago, I formed a singing and performing group with a few of my voice students. I wanted to give them an opportunity to rehearse and perform a show, and I wanted to give myself the opportunity to give back to the community while sharing the experience with other like-minded singers.

The group was formed for the sole purpose of performing at retirement homes, nursing and rehab facilities and assisted living facilities.

These venues are a far cry from my days of singing at weddings, corporate events, large concerts, and clubs. Instead of the sound of clinking glassware in the background, I would hear the sound of respiratory machines and walkers scraping on the floor.

Instead of the big paychecks at the end of the night, there were envelopes with $60-$200 waiting for us at the end of each gig. Split 4 ways.

But I soon realized that the joy our performances brought to the residents of these facilities, far outweighed the monetary losses we incurred. The looks in their eyes and the moving words of thank you’s that we received from them, brought a satisfaction that much of my past performing experience had lacked.

I have since performed frequently at these facilities, as a group, as a duo, and as a solo performer.

I now encourage my voice students to go out on their own and create a 1-hour act to bring to this population. With my assistance, several of my students are now performing regularly at these facilities and bringing music and joy to a group of people that are hungry for musical entertainment.
How to perform at retirement and nursing homes:

  1. Put together a 1-hour set. Whether you are accompanying yourself or singing to backing tracks, make sure that your set lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour. Be prepared to change it up if you return to the same facility on a regular basis.
  2. Material: Remember the ages of your audience. Stay away from current, trendy music. Songs from the 50’s and 60’s are ideal.
  3. Invest in a good compact PA system. You may be carrying your equipment on your own, and don’t want to be burdened with heavy equipment. It’s also usually overkilled. Quite often you will be setting up in a lobby or in a small area of a dining room.
  4. Record a few samples of songs for a demo. No need to record the entire song, just a verse, and chorus of 3-4 songs with di?ering styles
  5. Build a free website and upload your song list and your demo
  6. When you are ready to perform, contact the activities directors at local assisted living facilities, retirement homes and rehab facilities. Let them know that you are looking to provide entertainment for their residents. Be persistent, it may take a few calls and emails before you receive a reply. You can also stop by and drop o? promo material
  7. Be flexible with pricing. Activities directors typically have very strict budgets set for entertainment. Most directors pay $50-$150 per performance.
  8. If you are just starting out, you may want to o?er to perform for free for the first time. This will give you a chance to work on your act, get reviews and video footage.

In Portland, Oregon there is a wonderful website called Elder Audience (www.elderaudience.com) that will list your act. All activity directors in the Portland area have access to this site and use it often.