Wayne Plays from the Heart for Seniors
Senior LivingCommunity

Wayne Plays from the Heart for Seniors

Retiree Wayne Freedman maintains a rigorous volunteer schedule with wife, Nancy, performing piano concerts at senior communities.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

Wayne Freedman is polishing his extensive playlist to include classical and contemporary pieces, with touches of Broadway.
Wayne Freedman is polishing his extensive playlist to include classical and contemporary pieces, with touches of Broadway.

After retiring in 2021, Wayne Freedman set one of his goals as re-learning the piano, which has resulted in an ongoing, and “full to the brim,” series of volunteer performances for residents at area senior living communities.

He said, “This idea was a ‘throwback’ to my high school community service mitzvah project, playing piano for residents at retirement communities in Buffalo, N.Y. A major goal for me in retirement was to re-immerse myself in piano, regain former skills, re-learn pieces and greatly expand my repertoire, and then, perform for residents at communities. It’s taken a lot of work and practice, but I now have about 15-20 communities here in my rotation as the list grows.”

As an added bonus, Freedman’s wife, Nancy, who is naturally warm and enthusiastic, comes along to serve as emcee and crowd pleaser by inserting jokes. She interjects trivia about the song or performer to which seniors relate.

Freedman said, in admiration of his partner, “Nancy is an essential part of my performances. She has a natural gift for connecting with the residents. She introduces the pieces with interesting stories and hands out Hershey’s Kisses while I play the ‘Theme From Forrest Gump,’ (a tribute to the “life is like as box of chocolates” line). A corny and fun joke sample (would be), Where do pianists go on vacation? The Florida Keys!”

Freedman began studying piano at age four. During his high school years, he performed at senior living centers as a community service project in his hometown of Buffalo. After graduating from Northwestern University in 1977, he embarked on a successful 44-year media career.

Wayne Freedman watches on as wife, Nancy, entertains the audience.

While working his day job in New York City in the 1980s, Freedman performed at the famed One If By Land, Two If By Sea restaurant. As his career and family responsibilities grew, piano playing inevitably lessened.

Now back tickling the ivories, his repertoire includes light classical works and popular favorites like Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are,” and “She’s Always a Woman,” Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend In Me”; and several hits from The Beatles, like, “And I Love Her,” “If I Fell,” “I’ll Follow The Sun,” “Imagine,” and “In My Life.”

Old standards also include, “It Had To Be You,” “Young At Heart,” and Elvis Presley’s, “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You.” Freedman also performs film and Broadway show tunes as well as Jewish standbys like, “Havah Nagilah,” and “Oseh Shalom.”

Venues include: Berman Commons; William Breman Jewish Home; Cohen Home; Hammond Glen; Heartis; Holbrook Decatur; Holbrook Sugar Hill; Huntcliff Sandy Springs; Mansions @ Sandy Springs; Piedmont @ Buckhead; Renaissance On Peachtree; Solana @ East Cobb; Somerby @ Sandy Springs; A.G. Rhodes/Wesley Woods; Corso; Dogwood Forest/Acworth; and Dunwoody Pines.

Generations of studies have shown that music is very therapeutic for seniors and can even miraculously engage some with memory issues.

“Music is a powerful healing tool. It can reach inside us and impact our deepest emotions. Energetic music and joyful songs can instantly pull us out of depression, fear, and hopelessness.

“Just listening to music helps deliver relaxation and stress relief. The social interaction is uplifting to seniors who may be lonely and disconnected,” according to officials with Miami Jewish Health.

Freedman added, “The reaction to our performances has been extremely positive and appreciative. If we’re playing a popular song like, “It Had To Be You,” or “Young At Heart,” we absolutely encourage everyone to sing along; so far, we’ve haven’t had any dancers. The most applause has been for the faster-moving Ragtime music.”

The Freedmans accept no compensation. Wayne concluded, “This is all totally voluntary. It’s become a true passion. And while many have told me it’s a mitzvah, selfishly, I must admit that performing publicly again has given me more impetus to practice and push myself. In truth, I feel like it’s the seniors that are doing me a favor!”

Ellen Frisch, lifestyle director at Somerby Senior Living in Sandy Springs, extolled, “The very first time Wayne played for our residents, they became mesmerized. He now has fans and groupies awaiting his monthly appearance. He has enriched our residents’ lives with his music and the stories they tell.”

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