Catching the wave: It's becoming easier to get a professional band at your nursing home

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James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor
James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor

Less than a year ago, Gary Gamponia and his benevolent bandmates broke onto the national scene with a McKnight's blog entry about the way they play concerts at nursing homes for free. 

Boy, is it time for an update.

Since that July 2012 blog posting, Gamponia has been contacted by providers in at least six states. He exhibited at the California Association of Health Facilities Annual Conference. Mainstream media have splashed stories here and there.

But he wants more. For the residents. And for you, healthcare provider.

The tipping point, he figures, was Mother's Day, when “Pay It Forward” bands played 12 shows — six in Los Angeles, two in San Diego, two in San Jose, CA, and two in Nashville.

Gamponia's vision of creating a nationwide network of volunteer musicians playing tunes from the 1930s-1950s has taken hold. Six different ensembles of about seven to 10 musician dart around regularly. He has a plan to create an even greater network.

It “could mark the beginning of a national crusade to improve the lives of nursing home patients through entertainment,” a band spokesman said of the Mother's Day multi-jams. “We think that people who have so little at this point in their lives deserve to have something really special that they can look forward to every month. Our elders deserve better.”

Gamponia now needs the provider community's help. (Remember: This music-making bunch does not charge for its time.)


To recap: Pay It Forward bands comprise mostly professional musicians (140 in the Los Angeles area alone) who donate time and expertise to play at nursing homes and other senior care facilities. Various recording artists and Grammy Award winners have volunteered. They can riff on “just about anything” and are a part of Gamponia's “turnkey” program that he hopes more providers will take advantage of.

The play list includes tunes made popular by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Doris Day, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Lena Horne, Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald and more. Due to popular demand, they've even added classic R&B and oldies rock lately.

In other words, these are not just collections of well-intended garage-band players, though by all accounts they are well intended. (This written, no less, by a one-time musician who once thumped and chortled through a variety of nursing home entertainment halls.)

As Gamponia rightly points out, skilled nursing personnel who have a vested interest should leap at an opportunity to be partners with the volunteer musicians and singers. That includes activities directors, activity consultants, administrators, marketing and admissions officers, social service workers, and more.

“We hope that some of the more successful vendors would be interested in such an idea, especially since nobody takes a cent to perform — with the exception of gas money,” Gamponia told me.

“We are looking for skilled nursing facilities and individuals who want to join us in a crusade to improve nursing home entertainment, something that will immeasurably improve the lives of residents.”

Isn't that the goal, and isn't it time something like this came to your neck of the woods?

If you're interested in learning more, drop an email to or call (888) 777-0764 toll free. Click here for an early snippet from one of the bands' performances. A check of YouTube will reveal more on the group.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.