In the lobby of Springwell Senior Living, nestled among groups of chairs and tables and gracious windows overlooking the woods, sits a young guy practicing scales on the guitar.
Julien Xuereb (MM ’15, Guitar/ Pedagogy) lives just upstairs in the Mount Washington retirement community. As Springwell’s inaugural artist-in-residence, Mr. Xuereb performs during dinners and happy hours, gives concerts, plays for residents in their rooms, and holds his lobby practice sessions in exchange for a two-room apartment, rent-free. Meanwhile, he is earning his GPD under Guitar Department Chair Julian Gray.
“I have one foot in school and another foot in a professional environment. It’s what school should be,” Mr. Xuereb says. “I’m not just learning music; I’m learning how to be a musician.”
The arrangement started last June, after Springwell administrators became interested in hosting a young person who would contribute to its music-loving community of residents. They wanted someone with talent, of course, but also someone who would fit in, who had a “good heart for the elderly,” and who would become part of the community, says Phil Golden, Springwell’s director. “Julien has gone above and beyond,” Mr. Golden says.
Mr. Xuereb, who has been awarded a Dean’s Incentive Grant to replicate this model of community connectivity, says he gets more from the experience than he bargained for too. Performing on stage used to feel intimidating, but living at Springwell — where he performs, one way or another, every day — has melted his nerves away. “Now performing is just part of who I am. It’s made the extraordinary ordinary,” he says.
It also gives him time and inspiration to work on new music and bring out his composer side. “It’s quiet here; time stops,” he notes. And it’s expanded his repertoire — while he leans toward classical originals and music he’s never heard, many residents prefer the familiar and popular. So he’s obliged their taste by learning some Gershwin and playing Christmas carols around the holidays — and meanwhile discovered that at least one initially disinterested resident now listens at his door while he practices classical works.
Mr. Xuereb is so happy with the experience that he hopes to renew the agreement for another year. “It gives a lot of meaning to my practice because I get to try it out on stage right away,” he says. “It’s not like practicing for a recital or exam; it has a different purpose, and it makes more sense. You know why you wake up and play scales. I know that my music impacts people’s lives.”
— Rachel Wallach