CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (Nov. 9, 2023) — Music undoubtedly nurtures the soul, but its benefits go well beyond simply making us feel good. When it comes to the health of your brain and your heart, music is essentially a miracle drug.
According to John Hopkins Medicine, research has shown that music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure and pain, and improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness and memory. In short, we human beings are healthier, happier people when we have music in our lives – especially as we age.
This understanding is just some of the motivation behind Ain’t Misbehavin’, a local band formed in the spring of 2022 with the intent of performing pop and jazz tunes from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s to residents at senior living facilities in Central and East Contra Costa County.
Vocalist and Clayton resident John Propersi explains why these residents were their target audience: “Jazz and swing songs were their ‘pop music’ of the day. They grew up listening to Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Nat King Cole. They ruled the airwaves. We seek out the most familiar tunes as we know they’ll appreciate the music. Songs like ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ will get lots of smiles.”
Propersi shares that the crowd’s response is sometimes more lively than some might expect. “We once played the ‘Girl from Ipanema’ and got a conga line – a walker conga line.”
Backing up Propersi’s vocal work is keyboardist Dave Roberts, whose roots are in musical theater in Walnut Creek, and multi-instrumentalist Stuart Yasaki, who is usually on upright bass but also plays eight wind instruments. Propersi’s wife Mary Mac joins on vocals when she’s not teaching at Clayton Valley Charter High School. The group often rotates in seasoned jazz performers as featured guests.
For all involved, it’s less about the musicians and more about the audience.
“The people are very fun. We have grown to love these groups,” exclaims Propersi, adding: “It’s amazing how many people sing along, and it’s very special to us when we play memory care facilities and they sing along as well.”
“It’s been very satisfying helping keep this great old music alive and bringing a bit of cheer to the folks who grew up with these tunes, helping them rekindle their youth,” says Roberts, who has played piano in various jazz groups for decades around the East Bay.
Unlike many patrons at restaurant gigs, Roberts says the residents in these facilities are great audiences who are always excited for the live music. They are ready to be entertained and engaged upon arrival.
“I had been wanting to do this for years and had occasionally performed at a few (senior living) places with other groups,” explains Roberts. “But until I met John last year, I hadn’t found a partner who could do it on a regular basis. It turned out John had also performed at senior venues in the past with another pianist and was receptive to giving it a go when I brought up the idea.”
Propersi’s mother, Lois, was living in the Carlton senior living facility in Pleasant Hill at the time, so that was a natural venue for their first gig. She’s since moved to Merrill Gardens, where they appear monthly.
Since forming last year, Ain’t Misbehavin’ has been performing weekly at various retirement communities, assisted living centers and memory care facilities around Diablo Valley and beyond. Some of their frequently visited venues include Brookdale in San Ramon, Sunrise in Danville, TreVista in Antioch and Concord, Carlton in Concord and Pleasant Hill, Merrill Gardens in Brentwood, Westmont in Brentwood and the Antioch Senior Center.
For more information, email email@example.com.
Contact Dave Hughes at MrDaveHughes@gmail.com.
Dave Hughes is a local music advocate with an extensive network of independent artists. He produces and hosts a local music program on KVHS called The Beat of Diablo, every Sunday at 7:00 PM on 90.5 FM. Dave also catalogs local music releases at ConcordRockCity.com.