Smith Hill Chronicles
Smith Hill Chronicles
Since 2009, I have lived in the Greater Atlanta Ga area, and since 2010, I have been playing music; piano and singing, for Retirement communities, Assisted Livings and Nursing Homes. For almost that entire time, I have been TRYING to go play for the Veterans Administrations Home for the Elderly, (known as "The Eagle's Nest") at the VA Hospital in Decatur Ga.
The VA, I was told, doesn't PAY for Entertainment, but that was okay, because I wanted to give back to the VA. They have done quite a bit for me, both in medical and mental health treatments, counseling etc but in a 'left handed' sort of way, the VA is responsible for me playing music for these venues in the first place. Here's why.
In 2003, after 40 yrs of being a slave to alcohol and drugs, and having been through numerous rehabs, I placed MYSELF into a 'Christ Based 12 step" based on the AA. Because I had made the decision, this time I actually began the long road to recovery. I got 5 months sober and drug free before I relapsed, but it was a start.
In 2007, I placed myself into the VA "Homeless Veterans Domiciliary Program" in Dublin Ga. This is a 6 month program, during which you lived IN the VA Hospital, worked there and got clean time and some job training.
I have always been one, that if there is a piano there, I MUST play a song, if for no other reason than to see if it was tuned.
After the first month, when they decided that I really COULD play, they decided to let me play for one hour, once a week, in the Nursing Home ward, and the Alzheimer ward. It was there especially, that I saw the remarkable value that my music had in reaching those poor folks who were locked inside their own minds, and for the Nursing Home ward, just how much of a bright spot in their otherwise rather dismal lives my coming to play was.
So, in 2010 when I was finishing up my CNA school, and worked 4 days AT a Nursing Home, once again when they saw that I could play, rather than sit and help spoon feed those Residents who couldn't feed them selves, they had me play the piano during the lunch period. At the end of the 4 th day, the Activities Director approached me and asked if I would be interested in coming to play for them in an evening situation, just me and my keyboard.
I said "Sure, but I would need at LEAST some gas money"...she said, "oh don't worry, I'll pay you" and that night when I came to play, she handed me an envelope, which later when I opened it, had $40 in it!!!
WOW! I thought. They'll PAY me to do this! to do what I love and have a gift for.
Almost immediately, as I began finding places around to play, I checked with the VA. That was when I was told they didn't pay. I didn't approach them again for another year or so, but when I did, I said I would come play for free, only I would need someone to be able to keep an eye on my equipment after I had unloaded, so I could go find a parking place.
Parking is a BIG problem at the VA.
For the last 3 yrs now, I have been consistently told that they simply could NOT spare someone to come and stand there while I go find a parking spot. Of even take my car to park it while **I** go ahead and start setting up.
A month ago, I yet again, tried to reach out to come play, and seemed to make some headway, but alas it seemed to fall through.
Then...this morning, a male voice was on the other end when I answered my phone. He said his name was Tom, he was calling from the VA to see if I could come play for them next Tuesday. I didn't have my calendar open but I asked him to send me an email with the details.
He did. But it turns out that I am booked that day, in Decatur, but at the very same time he wanted me for the VA. BUT after several emails, in one of which I disclosed that I normally make between $70-$85 for a one hour performance, he wrote back saying he thought my fee was something like $400! He said he would gladly pay me that fee to come play for them!!!!
What a turn around! Now, we are on track to set something up starting in the Spring, possibly on a regular basis! And I stand to be paid!
What a day this has been!.
About the author:
I write poetry, which I hope is inspirational.
I am also a working musician, in that I am an old guy who is still making money working and playing music.
I've been playing now for 51 yrs
These days I mainly play for older folks in Nursing Home, Assisted Living and Retirement Communities, plus the occasional party or wedding.