Residents start musical hobby late in life through keyboard lessons.
The first song Loretta Schwaner learned to play on the keyboard was “Happy Birthday” so that she could surprise her neighbor with her newly acquired talent. A year prior, that same neighbor had encouraged Schwaner, who was mourning the death of her husband, Tom, to pick up the hobby.
“After losing a loved one you know it’s never the same again and I know he would want me to go on,” Schwaner said.
Schwaner attended a gathering for her church that included a keyboard performance from Fletcher Music Centers and decided to learn to play. At age 78 Schwaner is learning how to read music and play chords for the first time in her life.
“This is an instrument that plays like a piano or an organ but there are backup accompaniments to it and you can set it to your liking,” Schwaner said.
A standard piano has 88 keys, but Schwaner has 105 keys on her keyboard that are split into two levels. When she plays a song she sets accompanying music using orchestral settings that add additional guitar, strings and winds sounds.
On June 16 Schwaner graduated from Level 4 and has started lessons for the next level (there are 12 levels total). Lessons are taught in a group setting that allow students to socialize as well. The average age for students is 72. However, the reasons they enrolled vary.
“I love it," Schwaner said. "People are wonderful. Everyone you meet are all in the same category and you play as best as you can."
Ken Bistany, 81, recently completed Level 7 with his wife, Yolanda. Before taking lessons he never played an instrument in his life. He started lessons because he wanted to join his musically-inclined wife and daughter, Jacqueline, during impromptu family music sessions, which they call "The Mozarts."
“She’s very advanced compared to me, but she takes the courses with me, so I have a live-in teacher,” Bistany said. “These things don’t come easily for people like me. You really have to work on the timing and rhythm.”
The Bistanys have completed lessons for all 12 levels, but plan on retaking the course again.
“It’s actually very worthwhile because you learn new things every time you take a class,” Bistany said.