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Tunes cheer Jackson Hole seniors isolated by coronavirus
Mar 29

By GABE ALLEN
Jackson Hole News & Guide

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) _ Locals out for an early afternoon stroll gravitated towards the amplified sound of Peter Keenan's voice and nylon-string guitar as it bounced off the glass and wood of Legacy Lodge at Jackson Hole and echoed into the valley.

A crowd of impromptu onlookers gathered, with their bikes and strollers, on a recent morning to watch the young father and Lower Valley Energy engineer play through classic folk, jam, country and rock tunes for residents of the independent- and assisted-living center.

Sally Keenan, 5, sat next to her father and picked pages of sheet music off the ground when they blew off his music stand.

Though much of the sound was deflected off the lodge and into Rafter J, the formidable speakers that Keenan brought with him from the Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole were pointed directly through two open windows at the lodge. Behind the windows a crowd of residents whistled, hooted and clapped at the finish of each tune, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reported.

Many of them stuck a head or a hand out of one of the windows and thanked Keenan when, after more than an hour of singing well-loved songs, his voice was too hoarse to carry on.

The concert was a surprise for residents.

Nikki Escalada, the lodge's life enrichment director, had not told residents that it would happen until just after lunch. In fact, the idea for an outdoor concert was less than a week old.

It came to Escalada last week when she began the task of canceling all of the scheduled performers due to a lockdown policy preventing non-essential visitors from entering the facility. Having worked at her current role for four years she knew what a positive effect music could have on the mental outlook of the lodge's residents.

``I think music is incredibly important for people of all ages,'' she said.

Escalada made a Facebook post that put out the call to local musicians. The message was quickly picked up by the new ``Teton County CAREmongering'' group, where it ``caught on fire,'' Escalada said.

``Everyone started sharing it and I got a million messages.''

Because he had access to sound equipment and a large repertoire of recognizable songs _ not to mention a crystal-clear singing voice _ Keenan was a great candidate for the first show. His pastor had recently talked to the congregation about being generous in this time of crisis, and Keenan saw playing at the lodge as an opportunity to fulfill that call.

``I hope it's uplifting. I hope it brings them joy,'' Keenan said. ``I hope they get to take their mind off of being stuck inside for a little while and get some joy out of it.''

In addition to the residents, he played for his family.

Deb Keenan, an associate broker at Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates, strolled around the parking lot with their 14-month-old, Noah, as Sally sat with her dad.

``It's so important that we feel connected,'' Deb Keenan said.

Legacy Lodge planned to host two more outdoor concerts: one with Peter ``The Chan Man'' Chandler and another with Dan Hady. Escalada has received offers from many other musicians and will continue to incorporate the concerts into Legacy Lodge programming.

If you are interested in playing for the residents, call Escalada at 734-0500.


By The Associated Press, Copyright 2019