Pittsburgh Seniors and Jazz: How Music Gets Them Moving

Photo by Dennis Bonura | Tony Campbell and Jazz Surgery filled an old Hill District apartment with sultry tunes earlier this month. The performance is part of the Senior Jazz Connection program.

T.Earlier this month, the lobby of Legacy Apartments in the Hill District came to life with the smooth melodies of jazz legends Duke Ellington, Stanley Turrentine and Anita Baker. Tony Campbell and his band, Jazz Surgery.

Campbell and Jazz Surgery visit senior high-rises throughout Allegheny County, primarily in the Hill District and Oakland, each month, delivering upbeat music to help residents get out of their apartments and socialize with their neighbors. .

The Senior Jazz Connections program was launched in January 2022 by Brenda Tate, a 40-year Pittsburgh Police Department veteran and community activist from the Hill Area. Various organizations have partnered with Tate to bring jazz connections to seniors. Some of our partners include UPMC, Salems Markets on the Strip and Kim and Mel’s Catering. After each session, participants will complete a questionnaire to help Tate gather information on potential future partnerships. Apartment managers have also enthusiastically written letters endorsing the program.

“When I became a senior citizen, it became very clear that the community had so many challenges for seniors, especially safety concerns. There was nothing the community could do, and with my passion for jazz and being a senior like me, it was such a fit and such an easy concept,” Tate says.

The feedback she and her granddaughter Tonya Ford have received from the program has been nothing but positive.

“It shows that older people, especially in the African-American community, are really hungry to go out and socialize,” Tate adds. “It’s hard to come out at this age. residents know my security awareness and we bring them some jazz.”

The Senior Jazz Connection has steadily picked up the tempo since its inception. Tate and Ford she hosted a New Year’s party at the Hill District’s Energy Innovation Center in December, where nearly 200 seniors jammed to jazz, ate healthy food and enjoyed fellowship.

“Tony connects with everyone in the Pittsburgh jazz scene,” says Tate. “He and the band are willing to travel to play for senior citizens, and sometimes he surprises me with a guest vocalist. When Etta Cox performed at a New Year’s party, we were thrilled. .”

Jazz music is also deeply rooted in the Hill District, with past greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Billy Eckstine and Tarrentine gathering at the club.

“Jazz has always been here. It’s like feet and shoes. The Hill District is nothing without jazz,” laughs Tate.

Campbell has been sharing her sultry tunes with the region since she was 13. Campbell, also from the Hill area, played alto saxophone at school. He joined The Deltones in 1973, becoming the band’s youngest soloist.

“They needed a soloist and whatever I played worked,” he humbly states.

After receiving his music education at Berklee College of Music and the University of Pittsburgh, Campbell embarked on an impressive career recording and touring with Roy Ayers. He has also performed with Roger He Humphreys and He RH Factor, The Ellingtons He Sophisticated Ladies on his 16-week tour, Ben He Vereen, Marvin Hamlisch, Diane He Carroll and others. He performed for seven years with artists and on various cruise ships. Campbell is now a performer, producer, and teacher holding jazz jam sessions around Pittsburgh.

At Legacy Apartments, Campbell was joined by Howie Alexander on piano, Dan Wasson on bass and Andrew Kirk on drums.

One senior citizen enjoying music was legacy resident Gloria Iverahim, a retired nurse from the Hill District.

“I’m 80 this year and I love it here,” she says. “I love jazz! They could play for me all day! There are elderly people who don’t usually leave their apartments, but they come to listen to music. There’s something here, there’s entertainment.” is great.”

Iverahim stresses that seniors need to get out of their apartments more and socialize with other people. She says the pandemic has thrown a wrench into seniors’ social schedules, but they’re slowly getting back into rhythm with bingo resuming soon.

Alberta Hughes, 70, also enjoys music.

“I love it! If they could come every week, I would be here,” she says. I feel like my blood will flow longer!”

Legacy Apartments general manager Rhonda Johnson said staff hopes to integrate more programs to keep the 108 residents active.

“I love Jazz Connection, especially because it’s so easy to access.”

As for Campbell, if given the chance, he would play for his seniors.

“It’s great to give back, especially to the Hill District. I used to walk these streets and I know a lot of these people have been playing since I was 13.” play these events, they know this music.These are my mates!It’s always a blessing to play for them.”

The next Senior Jazz Connection will be held on Friday, February 10th from noon to 2pm at 420 Dinwiddie St. in the Hill District.

Email Tate and Ford to book a Senior Jazz Connection session hereA Senior Jazz Connection Facebook page will also be created in the coming months.

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