- Kate MacLeod
When Heart & Soul Executive Director Janna Lauer was growing up, her mother—a singer, violinist and pianist—was “the core of music in our family,” she says. But after a series of strokes and a hip injury, the musical matriarch needed to undergo rehabilitation in a nursing home, and Lauer could see that she wasn’t happy there. “Just 20 years ago, nursing homes were pretty dark and dismal,” Lauer says. “People would just sit by their doors, and we were so sad, and she seemed so sad.” Lauer and her brother, Doug Jenson, knew they had to take action.
They looked to a program based in San Francisco called Bread & Roses, which provides free music performances to people who “live in institutions or are otherwise isolated from society,” according to BreadAndRoses.org. Basing Heart & Soul on the same general model, Lauer and Jenson formed their program in 1994, with the mission to bring music to people in senior centers, hospitals, psychiatric facilities, prisons, domestic-abuse shelters and other places where going to see a concert just isn’t an option.
Now, 20 years later, Heart & Soul organizes about 750 performances every year by 100 bands and musicians. A recent grant will allow the program to “significantly expand our reach all along the Wasatch Front and possibly down to Southern Utah,” Lauer says.
The healing power that music brings to people in these settings is immediately apparent. “It really does bring people alive,” she says. “They’ll be sitting there, and all of a sudden … somebody will start talking that hasn’t spoken for a while.”
Lauer says that the bands choosing to play nostalgic music helps people reconnect with long-lost memories. “When you go back and do those old favorite songs from when you were a certain age, all those memories come flooding back, and it really makes for a happy experience,” she says. “So that’s what we do is bring the old songs to them.”
In celebration of Heart & Soul’s 20th anniversary, the third-annual Heart & Soul Music Stroll will give the general public the opportunity to experience the program’s music. “Heart & Soul’s invisible because we go to hospitals and nursing homes. Nobody sees us,” Lauer says. The stroll, she says, is “a really nice way for the community to see who we are and what we do.”
Heart & Soul Music Stroll will take place in southeast Sugar House at Atkin Avenue and Filmore Street, near the site of the future Imperial Park. Bands will perform on 12 porches, driveways and front yards, a format inspired by Porchfest in Ithaca, N.Y. Attendees will be able to leisurely stroll between the porches and watch 30 live bands and singer-songwriters, including Kate MacLeod, Minnie & Mack, Cabana Band, Harvest Home, Knotty Neighbors, Silver Creek, Stratford Street Big Band, Sweetwater Crossing and many more, representing genres as diverse as bluegrass, Celtic, Americana and jazz.
Past strolls have been prime examples of strong community spirit, a place for families and music lovers to also be healed by Heart & Soul’s music. “Last year, people were dancing in the street,” Lauer says.
In addition to plenty of tunes, Heart & Soul Music Stroll will feature a raffle and a silent auction—with items like a cruiser bike, a stay at Moab’s Red Cliffs Lodge and more—with all proceeds benefiting the program. Food trucks, a cakewalk and games for the kids will add to the fun.
Whether it’s bringing together a community or bringing some joy to someone in a hospital, music, Lauer says, is “a really lovely language to share.”
HEART & STROLL MUSIC STROLL
1530 E. 2800 South
Saturday, June 14, 4-8 p.m.