Friday, June 5, 2015

Stories That Inspire: The Senior Pops Orchestra: Finding Harmony in Long Island

Grassroots efforts often lead to improved quality of life. Many benefit from the vision of a few. Two local musicians from Long Island had a vision back in 1979 and the community has benefited ever since. The Senior Pops Orchestra of Long Island was created as a vehicle for senior citizen musicians to express their lifelong musical creativity, bringing entertainment and culture to the Long Island community.

The sixty-member volunteer groups’ mission—To bring the Joys of Music to the Senior Community and the community at large free of charge—has evolved into an intergenerational orchestra with musicians of every age. Retired music teachers and musicians retain a quality of life by engaging in creative activities and sharing their talents with the community. Ranging in age from twenty-something to octogenarians, they express an “amazing connection even though they may have thirty years between them.” Older members bring years of incredible experience and younger members bring a sense of vitality. Evelyn Carlin, a cellist, applauds the orchestra for its support after her husband died in 1991. “It saved my life and became a part of my social life.” She holds the distinction of being with the orchestra the longest—thirty years. 

Eleven months of the year, the Senior Pops Orchestra meets every Wednesday for practice. Committed to professional-level music and playing a dozen free concerts at Long Island parks, the membership comes with a priceless bonus: a supportive community. According to hired conductor, Stephen Michael Smith, “The musicians check in with each other, let people know at rehearsals if someone is sick, and watch out for each other.” Smith says he is not only proud of the orchestra’s sound, but inspired by the players who produce it. 

Even with recent setbacks due to a fire in December 2013 at their rehearsal site, the orchestra continues to thrive. Losses estimated at $43,000 included the group’s inventory of percussion instruments, a digital piano, and musical arrangements dating to 1979. Insurance and community support helped them to bounce back. Long Island’s Senior Pops Orchestra is a great model of a grassroots effort germinating into a field of great experiences. Watch the following video and check out for more information on the Senior Pops Orchestra. •CSA



Erika T. Walker, MBA, MSeD, CSA, is owner and CEO of SAGE WAVE Consulting, LLC, in Greer, South Carolina. She conducts strategic planning with businesses and communities across the country to help them prepare for the growing aging population. She has served as director of the SAGE Institute, and director of geriatrics at Greenville Hospital system. Contact her at 864-313-9691, or visit

Stories That Inspire: The Senior Pops Orchestra: Finding Harmony in Long Island was recently published in the Winter 2015 edition of the CSA Journal. 

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors