The secret power of a little jam session
JOYCE holds a maraca with a funny frog face on it. Her eyes are open but she can’t move much. She spends all day in a large blue recliner.
A woman next to her has a triangle instrument on her lap and feebly strikes it, barely making a sound. The feet of the crowd tap softly on the polished floor, slightly out of sync with the music.
This is what a show with Bow and Curtsy is like at the Richmond Lodge in Casino.
Unumgar’s Kym Watling and Geoff Bates are regular performers at the aged care facility and a smile or a foot tap, no matter how small, is everything to them.
“The first time we played, Joyce wouldn’t open her eyes,” Watling said. “Then she opened her eyes. Then she smiled. And now she has a little shake of the maraca.”
Participation success is measured in small steps.
Watling stamps her brown lace-up boots on the floor as she plays the fiddle. It is easy to see why her nickname is Kym Crazy Legs. But there is a purpose to her feet movements.
“My feet are a timekeeper,” Watling said.
She experimented playing without moving her “crazy legs”. The result was that not many of the elderly audience tapped their feet, she said. Foot tapping is contagious, it seems.
Richmond Lodge activities officer Helen Carbery has seen the effect the rollicking fiddle music has on residents.
“They love it. It is more upbeat than the music we normally have and they are included by playing the (percussion) instruments,” Ms Carbery said.
Joyce in the recliner doesn’t normally speak but she was smiling and moving the maraca during the hour-and-a-half session.
Bow and Curtsy is the name Watling and Bates give to their music program that started out in Kyogle as a crowd funder and was supported by the government’s small business scheme.
Watling said the trouble was that everyone wanted musicians to be volunteers.
“No one will pay for musicians,” she said.
The Bow and Curtsy Social Dance for Aged Care Program that gets residents moving and dancing, with a little help, needs funding.
“The government doesn’t recognise the arts as therapy,” Ms Carbery said.
Last year the Kyogle Council funded the music duo with $690 to cover fuel costs. This year they urgently need government funding to continue the program.
Watling and Bates are both in their 50s and know that one day it will be them wanting to hear music in their old age.
“We’re all going to get old,” Bates said. “The quality of life is improved by music.”