Music classes keep seniors at IHF in happy tune

In one corner of the Senior Center dining room, there’s a group of women laughing and making dolls for a craft activity. On another side of the room, four men are playing dominoes, nimbly popping the tiles on the table and sliding them in place in quick succession, then shuffling all of the tiles pips down after a player wins the hand.

In another corner, Javier Garcia circles another table, watching his students, offering advice in Spanish, and showing them each how to position their fingers for a chord on an electronic keyboard.

The room is at the Institute for the Hispanic Family on Wadsworth Street in Hartford. It’s essentially a neighborhood hub where seniors gather weekdays to enjoy activities and companionship, all aimed at ensuring their overall wellness. The site also offers Early Childhood programs, a family center for people needing assistance with food and other basic needs, a Behavioral Health clinic, and a pharmacy. It’s even the host site for a community of seniors from Southeast Asia, primarily Laos.

Javier Garcia entertains at the IHF Senior Center Christmas party, along with one of his current students singing.

Javier is a fairly new regular visitor to the Senior Center who spent many years as a musician in New York City playing a variety of instruments. He volunteered to teach other seniors how to play and for the past couple of weeks has brought in his own guitars and keyboards for group lessons.

On Wednesday, six seniors sat in a circle, each holding an acoustic guitar. At times, he sat with them, strumming his guitar to show them a simple melody. He went around the circle to each student, showing them where to press their fingertips on the frets to get the right sound from a chord. His plan for the classes is to start slow and build up their chord knowledge until they can play an easy tune with him.

It’s the same practice with the keyboards Javier brought to IHF on Thursday. The four students practice one chord, repeatedly plunking their fingertips down on the keys to practice getting the correct sound.

Learning to play an instrument is an excellent way for the program visitors to stay sharp and the IHF Senior Center is one of two senior centers that Catholic Charities is able to operate in Hartford thanks to our supporters. Along with the South End Wellness Senior Center on Maple Avenue, they offer enriching and rewarding programs and services, including opportunities to socialize, engage in recreational activities, develop new learning experiences, and emphasize health and wellness.