StoryCorps is an American nonprofit organization whose mission is to record, preserve, and share the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs. In 2007-08, StoryCorps operated a recording booth inside NPL’s Main Library. I had the honor of serving as an interview facilitator at the Nashville booth, and I’m writing this blog series to highlight some of our community members’ interviews.
"You make everybody happy!"
When Marguerite Martin was displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and moved to Nashville to live with her daughter Sarah Martin McConnell, neither of them knew what their shared love of music was about to set in motion. Marguerite had recently been diagnosed with mid-stage Alzheimer's, and because Sarah had to work and couldn't take care of her mother during the day, Marguerite started going to a local adult services day program. Sarah, a musician, would come to sing and play for the seniors every so often, and she and Marguerite even performed a song and tap dance number together.
They sat down to talk about it in October of 2007, as Sarah was launching Music for Seniors, a program that connects local musicians with senior communities. Hear Marguerite and Sarah share the story in their own words (and in song too!):
Marguerite Martin StoryCorps Interview
Here's a recording of the song they sang together, "School Days (When We Were a Couple of Kids)", sung by Byron G. Harlan in 1907.
Sixteen Years Later...
When I started researching for this blog post, I thought, "let me check to see if Music for Seniors is still a thing," and sure enough, it very much is! Not only is the program Marguerite inspired still going strong, it has expanded outside of Nashville. Now Knoxville seniors can also enjoy live music performed by local musicians.
In 2018, Sarah knew she needed some serious growth capital to scale Music for Seniors to the level she knew it could reach. After getting turned down for a funding application she poured her heart and soul into, she nevertheless decided to attend the regional finals for the funding opportunity: the WeWork Creator Awards, figuring she could pick up some tips for how to make her proposal even better next time. Little did she know that she was about to hop up on that stage and pitch Music for Seniors to Adam Neumann, WeWork's co-founder, and the event's co-host, Ashton Kutcher. Take a look:
Obviously, Sarah slayed that unexpected, impromptu opportunity to get the funding she needed. She had ready answers to all of Adam and Ashton's rapid-fire questions, and by the end of her few minutes on stage, she had them convinced and they gave her the money she'd asked for.
The Healing Power of Music
Countless studies have shown that people with advanced memory loss – as is common with late-stage Alzheimer's – often respond really well to music, sometimes remembering and singing the lyrics to songs they knew when they were young. If you're curious to learn more about this remarkable phenomenon, NPL has you covered. Check it out:
Music Moves Us
Sadly, in August of 2011, Marguerite passed away after a debilitating stroke. Here's part of the moving tribute Sarah wrote for her mother:
Each Music for Seniors program is a tribute to Marge. Her legacy of kindness, of an effervescent spirit and of a boundless capacity to enjoy music, dancing and those whose paths intersected her own, endures through the work of this program. She was quite a woman, and it is quite a blessing to have been born her daughter.