All that jazz

Vets jazz choir bridges generations for Tamarisk residents


"That's the thing about jazz: it's free flowing, it comes from your soul," said famous comedian Billy Crystal.

And that is exactly what residents of the Phyllis Siperstein Tamarisk Assisted Living Facility were feeling recently when 21 students from Warwick Vets High School Jazz Chorus performed several jazz-inspired songs.

Sponsored by Shalom Memorial Chapel in Cranston, this program is part of a series called Mi Dor L' Dor V' Chazarah Hareeshon, or “From Generation to Generation” and back again to the beginning.

According to Marilyn Smith, the community involvement coordinator for Shalom Memorial, there are many goals to achieve with this series.

"Our purpose, first and foremost, is to provide enjoyable musical entertainment for the residents of senior care facilities throughout the state," she said.

She feels the best way to do this is by providing programs that contain musical material from an earlier time in the residents' lives.

"Thus, the musical eras that came into being around the time they, the residents, were born is brought back to them by a younger generation," she said.

Smith has been volunteering doing a solo program called "Bringing Broadway to the Baubies and Zaidies – [Yiddish grandparent words] for more than 25 years in senior care facilities throughout Rhode Island. This particular program, "Giving Back Generation to Generation," made its debut this year. Students performed several standard jazz numbers including, 'You'd be so Nice to Come to,’ ‘In the Good Old Summertime,’ and the Dave Brubeck classic, ‘Take 5.’

One resident, Zelda Feldman, originally from Cranston, had a special connection to that song.

"My husband [Ed] and I have been married for 65 years, and together for 75; that album is still one of our favorites," she said.

All together, the students performed seven songs and one encore. Several pieces were performed a cappella with Musical Director Nancy Kennedy directing them, then she accompanied the students on the piano for musical numbers. Students Renee Labrie, Taylor Nicholas, Kevin Nguien, Michael Ryder, Carolyn Smith and Helena Wildmanall performed at least one solo.

Shalom Memorial Chapel provides a stipend to the particular school department that the performing students come from.

"This alleviates the burden of the bus rental expense for that school department. Our intent is to have the stipend benefit that school's music or drama department, using the funds to supplement a musical field trip for an under-financed student in need or using the funds that we donate to purchase costume or scenery supplies that their department needs for that school year," said Smith.

In addition, they require the students to spend time socializing with the residents immediately after their performance.

"This reciprocal chatting is enjoyable and therapeutic for the residents and it gives the students a chance to get to know about the residents' lives, their occupations, hobbies, etc. It's win-win," Smith said.

Some of the local facilities Smith has brought her show to are Victoria Court, Cranston Senior Center, Summit Assisted Living and the former Rosewood Nursing facility.

"Being part of the community that we serve is important to our family, my husband, Michael, and our son Adam, who work together at Shalom Memorial Chapel. In that regard, we support many facets of the Jewish community, as well as the greater community," said Smith.


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