No argument: This Butler did it (and more)

James M. Berklan
James M. Berklan

Professionals are often told it's in their best interest to network. Friend of long-term care Kerrick Butler has brought new meaning to the concept.

He has quite literally created the Kerrick Butler Network, or KBN. It's the parent organization of KBTV, one of the gifted Butler's most recent entrepreneurial efforts. (Yes, KBTV stands for Kerrick Butler TV.)

Don't let the self-named efforts fool you: Butler is a gracious giver. A veteran musician who runs his own accounting business and is also a degreed computer expert, he conducts about 400 long-term care music therapy sessions each year. A friend of numerous Grammy Award winners, the music educator clearly is tuned in to seniors' needs.

He's hoping that they'll soon also be tuned into KBTV.

In brief, it is a 24-hour TV channel dedicated to seniors' shows and interests, thriving on programs and music that long-term care residents grew up with. It is an Internet-connected stream that costs just $100 per month per facility — no matter how many beds or units.

It is in the pilot stage now, with several hundred individuals enjoying TV shows such as “I Love Lucy,” “Dragnet” and “The Rifleman,” as well as inspirational programming and music, around the clock.

“What makes it different is it's all directed at seniors — not just ESPN or CNN. We have exercise, Golden Oldies, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw,” Butler notes. “It's all stimulating audio and visuals from the era they grew up in. It works on memory stimulation, as well as physical. That's what makes it different from just bundling.”

The variety allows caregivers to actually include what was being watched as part of the resident's chart, Butler explains.

“Our goal is to keep the seniors active. I do music therapy and the music works for them, so I thought there had to be more,” he continues.

Butler ought to know. He is the definition of active. He lights up providers' faces whenever he enters the building.

“He certainly has a heart for our elders,” praises Janet Allen, community life director at Sanctuary at Bellbrook, a continuing care retirement community in Rochester Hills, MI.

“I can't pay him what he's worth,” she adds. “It's so good to know there are some ‘Real McCoys' out there.”

We'll assume she means “genuine good guy” with that label, though she also could be referring to potential KBTV programming.

Butler is nothing short of a modern-day Renaissance man. He started playing piano at age 3, mimicking an older brother and sister who were taking lessons and learning to play by ear. (“I've been doing music since I was knee-high to a blade of grass,” he notes with a small smile.)

Things took off from there as he he learned to play multiple instruments — drums, winds, strings, “you name it.” He ultimately earned a doctorate degree in sacred music, to go along with degrees in computer science.

He taught after-school music programs, led church groups and counts among his friends gospel Grammy winners the Winans, Vanessa Bell Armstrong and the Clark Sisters, among others. “They went into the entertaining aspect of gospel music and I went into teaching,” he explains without remorse.

Beyond his music experiences and academic pursuits, he also runs the Butler Foundation, something Sanctuary at Bellbrook's Allen is especially thankful for. The foundation helped fund a Detroit Symphony Orchestra appearance at the Sanctuary Campus, a part of Trinity Senior Living Communities. “We never could have done that on our own. He really has the heart for this population,” Allen says. The foundation also hosts sporting events for seniors and youngsters.

In addition, Butler recalls making rounds to establishments such as Starbuck's, Chipotle and Pizza Hut each morning, collecting food to distribute at shelters. He fed about 7,000 people a year at the time, he says.

Butler is the father of three boys (Kerrick II, a Georgia pastor; Robert, owner of a film and production company who works for Apple; and Kristopher, a senior at Grand Valley State majoring in International Relations). They all play or played musical instruments, including their mother and Kerrick's wife of 33 years, Patricia Butler, a flute and piccolo specialist.

It was Patricia who first encouraged Kerrick to offer his talents in senior care communities about five years ago. She knows them well, after all, since she is vice president of strategic development for Advantage Management Group of Southfield, MI. Kerrick said he has been careful, however, not to lean on his wife's position to pad his bourgeoning music therapy schedule. He doesn't really need to. He is booked with virtually all of the area's top chains.

“A guy running a nursing home in Detroit said he wanted a program for Christmas, so I told him I'd come and do something for the month of December,” Butler remembers. “I did four sessions and he called me into the office to start writing a check. I told him, ‘No, spend it on the residents. Hire a band.' The next year, I had 30 contracts.”

His focus and creativity are hallmarks, says Allen. Butler himself glows with warmth when he recalls some of the dramatic reactions he's seen to his music therapy. Residents have emerged from comatose or near-catatonic states, and at least one became so energized, he worked himself out of the facility and back to a “normal” life routine.

“Music goes to a place that stimulates the mind and then the body,” the 56-year-old Butler says with infectious enthusiasm.

He hopes it carries enough listeners and viewers to KBTV — both KBTVs, that is. There is the secular KBTV described above but also the "non-secular" one, otherwise known as Kingdom Building TV, which will feature “inspirational messages and programs.”

“KBTV is such a happy marriage because it combines music and technology,” Butler explains. “People ask me, ‘When are you going to rest?' When they close the box. When they close the box on me, I'm done.”

Until then, he'll be spreading the word, trying to broaden his imprint on seniors and their caregivers.

“I love what I do and I love to see how the seniors respond,” he says. “It might not always come back to me in a dollar or a check, but there are [rewarding] things that happen. When you plant a good seed, you get a good harvest.”

Or as they say in a different business, award-worthy ratings.

(If you want to know more about Kerrick Butler's music therapy sessions, KBTV or KBN, click here.)

James M. Berklan is McKnight's Editor. Follow him @JimBerklan.

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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 Emily Mongan.

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