Weaving the Social Fabric of Elders through deTour

PHOTO BY EOD

Hanna Doreen Brown’s full-time work is an independent musician playing music in nursing homes and senior centers all over the Front Range, mostly in Northern Colorado. She joined Courtney Hartman and Taylor Ashton on a deTour around Colorado. Courtney recently moved back to her hometown of Loveland. Formerly she made an album with her and her grandmother’s favorite songs. It was impactful to her as she processed how much she loved her grandmother and wanted to use that experience to help other elders.  This album inspired the theme of deTour.

Americana roots duo Courtney Hartman (Della Mae) & Taylor Ashton (Fish & Bird) released their first album, Been on Your Side, on August 31, 2018. So it was natural for them to embark on this journey together and Hanna brought the field expertise.

Kyle James Hauser, who leads the program says, “deTour is a program that really strives to align with the passions of our artists. It was serendipity that Courtney, Taylor, Hanna & Jacob have all been working with this underserved population and we were thrilled to provide them with a framework to shine a light on this incredibly important work.”

The group toured elder care facilities crossing eight cities statewide over the summer including The Courtyard of Loveland in Loveland, CO; Beehive Homes in Pagosa Springs; Prospect Park Living Center in Estes Park, CO; Cliffview Assisted Living in Grand Lake, CO. The goal of the deTour was to raise awareness and visibility for these often overlooked and invaluable members of our social fabric.

Hanna says, “Nursing homes, as far as I have seen, especially in the ones where their budget isn’t huge, really often don’t get the experience of seeing multiple musicians at a time. It just makes sense to the activity directors and the budget to be hiring one person if they’re hiring anybody to play. Realize that so many of these Elders don’t ever get to see a band or people playing live music together ever.”

Detour returns music making to a more collaborative, sustainable, and creatively rewarding practice. It joins musicians with communities across Colorado to program performances, workshops, field recordings, creative education, community celebrations, and more. Led by The Music District in Fort Collins, Detour seeks to redefine the roles of musicians to create deeper impact in the lives of the artists and their audiences, fostering stronger connections and greater touring sustainability.

Hanna and her group head the stories that weave the fabric of these people’s lives. The residents often shared stories of their family, their hardships, their happiness, and even their pain. The greatest gift the deTour group brought was to respond to these stories with a song. The music touched them more in-depth than any words spoken could and added a level of comfort and understanding to the situations.

Hanna talks about this, “We had a lot of people share their worries or something very personal. One woman shared after we played a couple of songs. She just started telling us a lot about her surgery coming up and all her worries, her medical worries, and talking about why the music important to her. It was kind of an amazing thing to have music as a response to that too, Sometimes you really feel at a loss for words, but you’re holding a guitar, and we just went ahead and played a song that felt right after she opened up. Having that the music as a tool and comfort in that social setting just felt real, right.”

The joy that overcomes an elder when they engage with live musicians is life changing. In each of the homes deTour visited the residents wept at the songs or they laughed and clapped, and a spirit rushed over them. Music delights the senses in a way that nothing else can. The deTour project brought something to these homes that they don’t get to experience on a regular basis, and the outcomes were substantial for both the performers and the elders.

They would play an hour at each home and then stay a few hours to talk and visit with the residents. Sometimes music got people out of their room who were down or others who would not generally come to the social events. The music acted as a conduit. Many people showed their appreciation with words of affirmation, and some brought gifts.

Brown mentioned a moment that impacted her, “We got a lot of we got a lot of gifts from residents. One woman connected with Courtney and her backstory. She gave us hearts that were paper mache and painted gold. She told us how to make them, and she gave one to each of us. She said you can give this away, and when you give to somebody tell them now, they have a heart of gold.”

The Days were filled with facility concerts, and in the evenings Hanna, Courtney, and Ashton performed locally in the towns they visited. They promised the residents they would take their spirits with them to every evening performance including:

 

  • 8/31 – Salina, CO – Salina Schoolhouse
  • 9/2 – Pagosa Springs, CO – Four Corners Folk Festival
  • 9/5 – Colorado Springs, CO – Ivywild Barrel Room
  • 9/6 – Estes, CO – Estes Performs Presents
  • 9/7 – Grand Lake, CO – Cliffview Assisted Living
  • 9/8 – Denver, CO – Swallow Hill Daniels Hall
  • 9/9 – Fort Collins, CO – Old Town House Concerts

 

The deTour project impacted so many people that they visited. These are people who rarely leave the homes they are in. Their day to day is shifting from bedside to living spaces and the occasional outdoors if they are able. deTour brought the music to them and introduced the facilities to a new way of thinking about their programming for elders.

This tour has inspired Hanna to work towards developing broader more in-depth programming for seniors and Facilities. She says, “going in and playing concerts is a real need but I’d really love to do storytelling, some interviews, and one-on-one work with a lot of the seniors so that it is a significant experience and exchange between the residents and the musician. I think sometimes there’s a stigma around playing in nursing homes like as if it’s just a charity or it’s for retirees or kids. People shy away from it and may be worried that it’ll be a difficult experience. It helps to do it as a group sometimes. I think that most musicians would connect with that experience more than they think.”

To see the program in action, check out this video of the latest Take Note deTour in the Roaring Fork school district: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-6ox1Scrmk

About Cynthia Wilson 25 Articles
Cynthia Wilson is a multimedia journalist with a Masters in New Media Journalism and a Bachelors in Journalism with a minor in Music Theory and Composition. She has a grassroots digital publication, Argento Studios. She is a content producer and co-founder of The Nashville Music Masters. She was the social producer for Green Mile Films, PR for Women’s Grand Prix at the US Pro Challenge, and Chief Relationship Officer for technology company Studio Hyperset. She is a music journalist, freelance writer, and digital content producer.

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