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by Carol Brandon

My friends and I are professional musicians and have been for 50 or 60 years. Most days will find us giving some sort of performance at senior facilities or for church groups. It's so rewarding to see smiles of recognition on the faces of our audience members when we play their favorite tune. Truthfully, we enjoy it as much as they do.

All this came to a grinding halt, however, in the middle of March due to COVID. Our clients have been in lockdown now for almost a year. We were totally out of work (if you can call this work.)

The first month wasn't so bad. We could always practice our instruments at home. However, if you've done something your whole life, it's hard to give it up cold turkey. We needed some sort of creative outlet--a place to play.

Things began to open up over the summer, not in the senior community, of course. Most of us had done club work in the past, but restaurants weren't hiring. They were lucky just to pay the bills.

We began to hear people complain that there was no live music to be found anywhere. This gave me an idea. In the past, I had done a couple of pro bono shows for friends at Tuscany Italian Bistro in Richardson. It's a family-run business with a lovely grand piano. Their food is delicious and reasonably priced. What if we played there twice a month for free?

I had to try it out first to see if we could safely distance and if the owners would let us do it. I convinced my long-time friend Alice Young to go with me the first time. She is a professional guitarist and classically trained singer. She can do it all, from Broadway show tunes to rock and roll. We had a delicious dinner, the friendly masked servers served, so we felt safe. It's a large place with a high ceiling. The tables were placed 6' apart. We were happy to see that the owners were cautious about sanitation.

After dinner, we asked if it would be alright if we made some music. Since the owner had heard me before, they readily agreed. I played and sang, then Alice joined me. Her version of "I Could Have Danced All Night." wowed the audience. It was a very pleasant evening and a way to have fun in this time of COVID.

We set a schedule to play the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month, 6:00-7:30. Little by little, we added other musicians. John Art brought his banjo. He is one of the better players in the Dallas area and is a member of the Dallas Banjo Band. 89-year-old pianist and arranger Dr. Bill Flynt hauls in a synthesizer and speakers for each show, which gives a lot of depth to our sound.

I've known 87-year-old clarinetist, Dr. Bruce Evans for years. He is a long-time professional musician and former bandleader. Another band director is Ken Wilk, who sometimes joins us. He can really make his horn sing. Lately, Jon Jentry has been sitting in on the violin.

These musicians must be 6' apart, of course. And they don't all come every time. Once we added Bill Sleeper on drums, we had reached capacity. Bill is the former director of the McKinney Community Band and a fine musician.

We have a couple of "youngsters" in their 70's. The rest are in their 80's.

From time to time, we are joined by various vocalists. James Price, Estelle Carter, and Carol Cohen are former stars of the Spectacular Senior Follies. They are very popular guests. Pianist Sue Cruz has joined us occasionally, as has professional singer Linda Young.

We notice that many of the same customers are coming back now to see the shows. We've heard many good comments about the Tuscany Troubadours, as we're called. Where else can you see a 6-piece band with no cover charge?

As to what we play, we mostly stick to old standards, Broadway tunes, romantic ballads, and even some light rock and roll.

See the Tuscany Troubadour's EVERY Friday Night!

743 Brickrow in Richardson 75081

West of Greenville, off Spring Valley

Join us for a safe, fun way to enjoy friends, good food, and live music! See you on Friday night!

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