Violinists Bring Joy To Residents At Lutheran

Imagine being 80 years old and learning a musical instrument for the first time. Imagine that after just a few weeks you are performing for a live audience. Imagine having a toddler or an 8-year-old lovingly by your side.

And finally, imagine all of this happening as a resident in a nursing home. Welcome to the award-winning Suzuki at Lutheran program, where you’re never too old (or too young) to make your heart sing.

A last-minute phone call held me up, and I arrived at the Suzuki concert a little late. My first set of goose bumps hit me as Merritt, a resident of the Lutheran Home, sang in perfect pitch, “Getting to Know You” and was accompanied by a dozen children playing their violins. He could not have been more proud and the children could not have been more delightful.

Sitting next to Merritt was a music therapist who has been by his side at every concert. She encourages him and helps him track the words. It was magical and fun.

From my seat, I could see staff members passing by in the adjacent corridor. They were enticed by the sounds and smiled as they stopped for a moment to glance in and soak up the energy. Other employees brought residents in wheelchairs and walkers, so they could join in the excitement.

Toes were tapping, hands were clapping and others in the audience just nodded to the beat of the music. One resident, who has a form of dementia, mimed as though she was playing a piano along with them. There was so much to enjoy, it was hard to focus on the entertainers.

Tom Holt, our CEO, says that he loves to hear “happy noise” fill our hallways. The Suzuki program has brought us happy noise and so much more.

Its music has given our residents a sense of purpose and pride, something to fill their time, and something to look forward to each week. We’ve seen improvement in their overall outlook, dexterity and posture.

Nina Karbacka is the talent and Suzuki teacher leading the program. She brings out the best in all her students with her vibrant personality and encouraging words. Under her direction the program continues to grow with more youth and seniors. One of the benefits of learning the Suzuki method is that students don’t have to know how to read music or even memorize the notes on the strings, if they are not able. All ages and abilities can learn and enjoy.

In 2013, Suzuki at Lutheran received the Innovation of the Year award from the NYS Adult Day Health Care Council, which is part of LeadingAgeNY. The program is supported by Lutheran, and both the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation and the Sheldon Foundation. The foundations offer scholarships for some of the students and help defray the costs of instruments and lessons.

Applications are being accepted for the fall and winter sessions. Contact Nina Karbacka at 665-2779.

Eckwahl is the director of marketing at Lutheran. For more information about their programs and services, she can be reached at 720-9122 or by email at