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No Biz Like Showbiz: Entertainers on the Senior Circuit Find Steady Gigs and Grateful Audiences

Aimee Sharp
Author | Shield HealthCare
03/12/18  9:12 AM PST
Senior Circuit

By Mary Jacobs, Special Contributor for Dallas News

You’ve heard of the rodeo circuit, the lecture circuit and the vaudeville circuit. Now there’s a new show business niche: the silver circuit.

Every day, a cadre of musicians, singers and entertainers brings bright moments to seniors, working the parlors of area independent living and assisted living communities, skilled nursing, memory care and rehab facilities.

Some make a living performing full time for senior audiences; others supplement what they earn at weddings, bars and private parties. Many senior communities have activities directors with budgets for entertainment. Performers earn $75 to $150 per gig, and for those with audience appeal, the work is steady.

 Communities pay for entertainers because music and other performing arts are healing, especially for those with dementia, said Clair Jameson, director of life engagement for Irving-based Autumn Leaves memory care communities.

“Music can unlock doors to happy memories,” she says. “When performers visit, even residents who are no longer responsive to their environment will start to pay attention, tap their feet and smile.”

Most performers travel solo, setting up and tearing down their own gear. Shows usually run about an hour, and many performers stay afterward to chat with the residents and get to know their names.

One key qualification: a heart for seniors. Performers on this circuit can’t take it personally if one or two in the audience sleep through the performance. And they must have the energy and chutzpah to get residents moving and keep them engaged.

Here are a few of the performers working the silver circuit in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and why they love what they do.

Mike the Accordion Player

Mike Frankel, 66, worked as a software sales executive for 30 years. After he was laid off several times, he says: “I decided it was time to find something where I had more control.” He picked up his accordion in 2009 to play at the senior community where his mother lived and found his new calling. He’s been doing this full-time since 2013, averaging around 20 sessions a week. Most of the communities where he performs have a standing arrangement for monthly visits.

Read the Full Article at the Dallas News.