Students bring music to Covenant Shores

Music floated around a common room in a local retirement community as the audience, scattered on couches and chairs, relaxed and listened to the musical renditions of local high school students.

The students, part of the Music in the Community Club at Mercer Island High School, play a variety of tunes for the residents at Covenant Shores Retirement Community approximately once a month.

Michele Zemplenyi, a senior at MIHS, is a long-time piano and cello player who started playing occasionally for the residents during her freshman year of high school as a way to bring music to people who do not get to see many live performances anymore.

These days the club, which Zemplenyi formed during her sophomore year, features between 10 to 15 students who perform in a variety of solos and ensembles whenever they are free.

“It’s somewhat difficult to get people,” she said, because most students are so busy. “But I try and get across that it’s very low key, and it’s a very appreciative setting. They are just happy to hear you play.”

Anita Siefert, the activities coordinator at Covenant Shores, said she has been impressed by the students’ willingness to play for residents. After Zemplenyi contacted her about playing for residents, the program has flourished.

“I’ve just been blown away by it. It’s really kind of magical,” said Siefert. “They are amazing kids. The residents really like the diversity. I just hope someone can carry the torch next year.”

Back when she was a freshman, Zemplenyi said she would play the time slot entirely on her own, filling 30 to 45 minutes with piano or cello pieces, but she quickly found that it tapped her musical reserve. Since she did not have an unlimited amount of time to learn and prepare new pieces to play for the group, she sought outside help.

“Plus, it’s probably more fun for them to hear a variety,” Zemplenyi said.

Now, depending on the month, a group will play, sometimes featuring a single student or groups playing various instruments in solos or duets. Last week, Zemplenyi and seven other MIHS students played for a group of 20 residents.

MIHS sophomores Kasey Taylor and Mahalia Lind-Diamond, who performed a piano and clarinet duet, were visiting Covenant Shores for the second time.

“It’s very gratifying to see how happy it makes them,” said Lind-Diamond. Taylor said she enjoyed playing because the residents were extremely welcoming and appreciative of the music.

Also performing last week were students Wick Kaminski, Ryan Fang, Tori Rodgers, Marnie Hogue and Miriam Koh.

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