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ASU retirement home launches Musicians-in-Residence program

This fall, Mirabella at ASU brought graduate students from the School of Music to the retirement home to live and perform for the residents

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Musician-in-Residence Abigail Sherrill performs for Mirabella residents on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, in Tempe.

Lifelong learning is a cornerstone of the mission for Mirabella at ASU, putting residents "in the heart of an urban oasis bursting with culture, life, learning, and excitement."

Despite Mirabella and its residents filing a number of complaints against Shady Park, the live music venue right across the street, the in-house music scene is thriving at ASU's luxury retirement home.

According to a lawsuit Mirabella filed, the noise levels from the house music venue have caused "ongoing and irreparable" harm to the residents and to the retirement home's reputation. 

Soon after the home's initial complaints, Mirabella launched a Musicians-in-Residence program in collaboration with the School of Music, Dance and Theatre this fall semester.

The program selected four graduate students from the school to reside within the senior living community. The students were recruited during the spring.

In return, the musicians, who specialize in vocals and playing various instruments, are responsible for at least one performance a week.

Performances occur all around the complex, with the most popular locations being the lobby, auditorium and lounge, said faculty associate in the School of Music and graduate student studying music performance Ty Chiko.

These performances are not exclusive to the musicians-in-residence, though.

In addition, this program provides an opportunity for external musicians, typically students and student ensembles within the School of Music, to perform in front of an audience and to use Mirabella as a rehearsal space, Chiko said. 

From open rehearsals for a saxophone quartet to visiting jazz pianists, musicians can come and fill the halls of the high rise complex with a diverse variety of music.

The musicians-in-residence are also tasked with leading what program coordinator, Chiko describes as a "flex engagement."

While most performances are set up for the musicians to play and the audience to listen, these engagements give the residents an opportunity to get directly involved.

Residents can choose to participate in a ukulele group, a choir or even chamber music. 

For the musicians-in-residence though, the dynamics of graduate students living in a retirement home can be interesting.

For Alfredo Bonilla Aguilar, musician-in-residence and graduate student studying music performance, the main concern was having his workplace also be his home.

In order to combat this, "the four of us decided to be very deliberate with our responsibilities," he said, which has helped create a good work-life balance. 

As the semester progressed, Bonilla Aguilar has come to value the convenience of the situation, especially having his home, school and work all less than a mile from each other, he said.

Despite the generational gap between her and her neighbors, and the unique spin on the work-from-home format, Abigail Sherrill, musician-in-residence and graduate student studying music therapy, has found the residents to be welcoming and supportive of her and her fellow graduate students.

The residents have warmed to the program and it has created a mutually beneficial situation for everyone involved, she said.

"A lot of people here are just lovers of music and we are excited that we're here to bring all this music to the community," Sherrill said.

Clarification: This story was updated to include information on when the musicians-in-residence were recruited on Nov. 22, 2021, at 12:30 p.m.

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Sophia BalasubramanianDiversity Officer

Sophia Balasubramanian currently serves as the Diversity Officer for the State Press. She previously worked on the Echo as an editor and reporter.

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