The first time I attended an Alive and Kickin concert they were still performing at the Old Arizona. Begun in 2010 by Twin Cities brilliant artist Michael Matthew Ferrell as a gigging seniors (ages 63-93) choir, the group has now grown into a fully-fledged non-profit organization, with multiple outreach programs and an annual sold out concert run featuring its 33 cast members.
But back then, it was something my friend Michael was starting to figure out because he’d been inspired by a documentary. The Old Arizona was a far more intimate space than where they perform these days, but the experience left just as big of an impression. The almost unbelievable levels of vulnerability of the storytellers was only matched by the pure joy in their song. It was all so visceral – I laughed, I cried, I cried until I laughed and I laughed until I cried. Redefining what it means to grow older? Please, more like redefining what it means to LIVE.
I remember hugging Michael following the concert and saying to him “you’ve created something really special here.”
Several years later, I was gifted the opportunity to revisit that unique visceral experience when I was invited to participate in a program of Alive and Kickin called SingOUT! led by Michael and A&K Music Director Jason Hansen. It’s exactly what it sounds like – seniors are invited to come and sing. No pretense, no cost, no expectation except to celebrate the joy of music. All abilities are welcome – some in the room no longer speak, but boy do they dance; some are trained musicians whose first note came lifetimes before I even took my first breath; And some are even literal music legends. It is an indescribable experience to sit in that room, to sing in that room, to feel the power of life in that room. (Plus, those wonderful people took a moment to record a special birthday song for a friend of mine – how could I not leave with a beaming smile on my face?)
On that day I had not yet decided what organization I was going to raise money for at my annual birthday concert. Given the current state of affairs of our world, it’s hard to not want to raise money for just about everything related to social justice work, but as the days passed, the experience of SingOUT! stuck with me, compelling me to embrace the intersection of music and human services.
I’m raising money for Alive and Kickin for a lot of reasons, I suppose…
I believe in Michael Matthew Ferrell and Jason Hansen as impactful and creative artists.
I believe in the important work my mother did as a geriatric psychologist for 25 years.
I believe in the power of someone feeling brave enough to tell their own story.
I believe in the necessity of providing space for someone to feel brave enough to tell their own story.
I believe in the ability and science of music to connect us to memory, place, time and other people.
I believe we have much to learn from those who created the path long before us and it does us well to not only listen to them, but hear them.
And probably most of all, because I still believe what I said after seeing them perform for the first time:
There is something really special here.
I hope you’ll join me on February 12th to honor Alive and Kickin and celebrate my first week of 32. We’ll be at LUSH in Minneapolis getting things rockin’ around 7:00pm. For more information visit HERE.