Lessons from an Unexpected Audience: Ms. Delores and the Solo Gig

Last night I had a solo music gig at a local assisted living community, where they had me come play some background music for a party focused around some of the medical professionals and home-health providers that work alongside the facility.

I’ve played a gig at the community before, but last time it was for the residents (75-90+ year-olds) not the medical professionals (30-50 year-olds, give or take). I tell you all of this backstory for a reason that we’ll get back to.

No problem. I sat down and started in on being background noise for the party.

If you’ve never been a performer at an event like this, it’s a weird sensation. I’m not the point of the event; I’m somewhere between the food/decoration and the hosts in terms of importance. Guests don’t make eye contact, and when they do it’s a polite “I’m not sure what to do with my face or hands” type of moment.

My job is to sit in the corner, and make people comfortable. That means that I have to return their awkward looks (or prevent them) with an aura of comfort and fun. “Look at that dude sitting in the corner having a blast!” is my goal.

I have to ride the wave of the party, and done rightly I can actually generate the wave and then ride it a bit.

Last night, though, something amazing happened. As the short party was dwindling, one of the residents (having finished her dinner) shuffled around the corner with her walker, and planted herself on a couch facing me. Let’s call her Ms. Delores.

The remaining party-goers in the room were deep in conversation. Delores was laser-focused on me.

I’ll try to do justice to the look on her face with words, but I assure you that whatever you picture when I describe it, it was more joyful and content than that.

Delores looked at me like a child looks at the first piece of birthday cake. She alternated between an open-mouth almost laughing smile and a look of wonder and amazement. She was thrilled to have someone playing music and singing for her.

The longer I sang, the more she’d close her eyes and rock her head back just absorbing the experience of live music. I don’t know how many grandkids Ms Delores has, but I do know exactly what they feel like when she’s proud of them. It was written all over her face.

One of the things I love about the very young and the very old is their complete lack of relational filter. The last time I played at this retirement facility, a resident less than 10 feet from me stood up and loudly declared that she was done listening and “ready to go watch [her] show” before scooting mid-song with her walker, oxygen tank, and nurse (within arms reach) in front of me to get to the door. Another lady loudly told her nurse that she turned off her hearing aids as soon as I started playing: “I don’t want to listen to that!”

No filter. They’ll tell you what they don’t like. Ms. Delores was telling me in every way she could what she did like.

The party had definitely ended, but you know what I did? I kept playing. I played an entire song to an empty room other than Ms. Delores. Me and her just sitting there for a private concert while the staff started sweeping the floor and cleaning up the leftovers.

It felt like a holy moment, so I sang a song “Absent From Flesh” where the chorus loudly proclaims this:

I go where God and glory shine—to one eternal day!
This failing body I now resign, for the angels point my way.

-Isaac Watts and Jamie Barnes

Just me and Ms. Delores, rolling around in the beauty of the coming resurrection.

There are lots of application points and things I took away from the experience, but none more than this: I went from having to manufacture excitement to wanting to stick around for an extra hour, and the only thing that changed was Ms. Delores entered the room.

Oh that I could live a life of unhurried wonder like Ms. Delores. More than that though, may my life be filled with moments where my smile and encouragement changes the day for someone.

Lessons from an Unexpected Audience: Ms. Delores and the Solo Gig Click To Post to X