“These six songs didn’t exist 24 hours ago,” Belmont Songwriting Lecturer James Tealy said. “They only existed as seeds and dreams in your story…and now they’re songs. Isn’t that a beautiful thing?”
Senior songwriting and music business major Emily Falvey sat on a piano bench and readied her fingers. She took a deep breath, moved towards the microphone and began singing to the crowd, a group of residents from the Heritage in Brentwood, a local senior citizens home. The facility was full of listeners, all eager to hear the story Falvey told through her words — but it wasn’t her story she was telling.
As a part of Make Music Nashville, the city’s version of the global June 21 Make Music Day, Falvey and a group of her songwriting classmates visited two senior citizen facilities in Nashville — The Heritage and Brookdale in Green Hills — to gain inspiration from a group who, as Tealy put it, have lived a bit more life. Earlier Wednesday morning, the students visited the facilities and interviewed residents, learning more about their stories, families and values. Later that evening, the songwriters returned to both locations and performed their original pieces, inspired by the lives of their new friends.
On Wednesday morning, Falvey met and interviewed an Air Force pilot with both an M.D. and J.D., as well as a woman with a vibrant singing and education career. “Both of them inspired me to live as full a life as possible,” Falvey said. “This was an amazing opportunity to connect with wise people, learn meaningful lessons and gain inspiration from them. These are friends I hope to keep for years to come.”
Falvey’s time with the residents inspired her original piece, “Colorful.” Telling the story of a woman who has “walked a million miles, with a thousand more to go,” the song was born from Falvey’s new friend’s apartment. Covered in beautiful art, colorful decorations and memories from throughout her life, Falvey was inspired by the ways color has consistently found its way through her subject’s story — even in the jacket she donned during the interview. “This life’s a party, why not make it magical?” she sang. “Incredible and wonderful and beautiful…I’ve lived a colorful life.”
A second participant, Corinne McKnight, pointed to the experience’s impact on her songwriting skills. “This activity helped me hone my craft as a songwriter by forcing me to stay focused on a short timeline,” she said. “I had to write a song that incorporated the ideas that were shared with me and make sure the song reflected Wayne’s life. But the best part of the day was meeting Wayne, listening to his life experiences and taking his words and making them my own.”
Tealy, who organized both events, said he was excited to provide this opportunity to students not just for the educational value, but for the service component, too. “Serving the community is such a core component of what it means to ‘be Belmont,’” he said. “A nursing student might use their hands to serve the world. As songwriters, we’re learning to use our lyrics and melodies to serve and share our own unique kind of healing with the world.”
As for the residents, the experience was incredibly meaningful — one they hoped to replay over and over again. As the crowd dissipated and residents left for the night, one resident’s request could be heard. “One last thing,” she said. “When can I get this on CD?”