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OSS students give gift of music to local nursing homes (3 photos)

'I thought it was so nice to have the young people come. I think it was good for them, and it was good for us,' says Trillium Manor resident of OSS quartet

Ashley Greenwood remembers well the lonely feeling of being at home, playing her trombone to nobody but her laptop.

“It was so sad playing alone in my room with (my bandmates) muted on my computer,” she says.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, members of the Orillia Secondary School brass quartet, Brazzledazzle, were restricted to virtual practices and performances for their entire Grade 11 year.

With those restrictions now easing, the group is giving the gift of music to residents of local nursing homes. They’ve played four concerts since September and have more scheduled for the Christmas season.

“We all enjoy playing music, so why not do it all together and perform for people?” says the group’s euphonium player, Brianna Mandarino. “It makes us feel like we’re just doing something good for the community.”

Tuba player Peyton Nie and trumpeter Grace Locker make up the rest of the quartet.

They formed the group for a project in music class in Grade 11 and liked playing together so much they kept it up over the summer.

Excited to get back to performing, the quartet applied to the city’s See You On The Patio program, hoping to play at local businesses.

After they were accepted in early July to play at Theo’s Eatery the next month, they started meeting in their backyards once or twice a week to prepare. They made matching t-shirts, created an Instagram page and posters for the group in anticipation.

Diners seemed receptive to their three-hour performance, recalls Locker.

With a live performance under their belts once again, the group was itching for more.

Nie thought residents in long-term care especially might be missing live entertainment, and she reached out to Trillium Manor.

“You see that they’re missing the connection of being with people,” says Nie, who took part in a Students for Change initiative last spring speaking with residents of The Atrium over Zoom. “So I thought a good way to give back would be to see if they’re interested (in a performance) and all the responses (were) that they’d love to have us perform.”

Caitlin South, who works at Trillium Manor in the program and support services department, says the home had live music a few times a week before the pandemic. They’ve been eager to see some performers start coming back, she said.

The quartet played at Trillium Manor for the first time in September - outside on their patio.

About 15 residents gathered on the patio for dinner and the show, but as the quartet launched into pop tunes like Dancing Queen and Sweet Caroline, more and more flocked to watch or enjoyed from their windows.

“It was fantastic!” says resident Margaret Burt. “I thought it was so nice to have the young people come. I think it was good for them, and it was good for us.”

The recognizable tunes had residents humming, singing and clapping along, said South.

“Music brings together such a community, and a diverse community as well. Everyone’s engaged, everyone’s happy to be there. It’s always a nice feeling to know that we brought this joy to people,” says Locker.

Seeing the residents' reactions to the music, South asked the group to come back to play at the home’s Christmas market.

“It speaks volumes that they reached out to us knowing that it's probably been a long year-and-a-half for these residents and wanted to share music with them and just bring joy to the home,” says South.

Brazzledazzle has received similarly warm welcomes at Birchmere Retirement Residence and Leacock Retirement Lodge. Each residence they’ve played at has asked them to come back.

The group’s music teacher, Laura Christie, says she’s proud of the group’s ability and desire to spread joy.

“To see a group of students take what they’re learning in class and take it to the next level all on their own, it’s kind of the ultimate goal for any music teacher,” Christie says.

Their repertoire and sound for a group that only practises together once a week is impressive, Christie adds.

The quartet was recently nominated for an Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage Award for best emerging artists. Though they didn’t take home the award, Nie says they were still honoured to “be in a room of such influential artists.”

Though Brazzledazzle is self-directed, Christie still attends each live performance.

Nie says the performances have been a win-win as she thinks Brazzledazzle sounds better after each show.

The quartet will be spreading Christmas cheer at the city’s Christmas Market at the Orillia Public Library on Dec. 22, and at Rustica Pizza Vino on Dec. 10.