For a Smile

Student musicians play at local nursing homes


Photo Courtesy of Jinyoung Jeong

Vivace Strings was born in a nursing home in South Korea—at least, the concept of the group. It first came to Jinyoung Jeong (11) two years ago when she was there visiting an Alzheimer’s patient: her great-grandmother.

“She really liked it when we played for her because we had our own instruments,” Jeong said. “Each time we went we could visibly see her remember more and more things from her past. So when we got back I thought ‘why not do it for people here in our community.’”

orchestra vivace outside with instruments
Photo courtesy of Jinyoung Jeong

The more she considered volunteering at nursing homes and did research on how music helped people with dementia, the more it came together. So in the fall of 2019, Jeong started the volunteer group, roping in her friends and making an announcement during orchestra class. 

Now composed of ELPS students ranging from eighth to 11th grade, the orchestra group has eight members who play the viola, violin and cello. The group performs bimonthly and practices weekly.

Despite their good intentions, Vivace Strings’ first performance two years ago at Burcham Hills was less than ideal.

“It was an absolute disaster,” Jeong laughed. 

The singular cellist’s instrument had broken a few days beforehand causing a violinist to play the bass line. Additionally, the audience was about four people, and the group only played for about half of their scheduled time. 

“Everyone was nervous,” Jeong said. “I had written out jokes and witty things to say between pieces to introduce them and I said the first joke I’d written down and no one laughed.”

Nonetheless, Vivace Strings continued through their “rough” start. The next performance had a larger audience and was considered “much better” by Jeong. 

In the past, they’ve played at Burcham Hills, but COVID-19 has forced them to relocate to Country Woods Assisted Living. Liv Mann (9) joined Vivace Strings recently as a cellist. Mann likes that the group has allowed her to meet new people and given her a chance to perform.

“It’s nice to hear music played together,” Mann said. 

Vivace group in living room, formal wear
From left to right: Mori Rothhorn (11), Constance Chen (11), Jinyoung Jeong (11), Guhyun Jeong (8), Shehzin Lodhi (11), Lainy O’Neal (11), Drake Howard (11). Chen is no longer part of Vivace Strings. Off screen: Liv Mann (9) and Dana Hardy (9). Photo Courtesy of Jinyoung Jeong.

Because she’s played her instrument since sixth grade, Mann finds the sense of community music makes it important and comforting- whether they play classical or tango. Likewise, Jeong also considers music a crucial part of her life.

“You can’t describe it,” Jeong said. “It’s just one of those things- it’s a part of my life. Music is very good at making people’s day brighter.”

Vivace String’s hopes to contribute one thing to their community: happiness.

“We really just want to make someone’s day with our music,” Jeong said.


Want to hear a performance? [Facebook- @vivacestringsel]