Emily Curtis


When the lights fade...

Mondays. I like em… Just came from singing at the Somerby assisted living community. These are just my thoughts on what I notice and feel when I’m there. 

It’s real, uncomfortably real, not glamorous. It’s powerful… changes my heart and perspective on life in regards to my goals for music and priorities. It takes the pressure off of the success and the goals that cause so much anxiety in me, every day. 

I look at the residents sitting in those chairs, many of them shadows of who they once were. They chased dreams, fell in love, felt heartbreak, doubted their careers, faced setbacks and failure. They celebrated life milestones, and were probably the envy of many. They may have made terrible mistakes. They accomplished amazing things, traveled to incredible places, and had colorful lives. Some battled unforgiveness, loss, trauma that they allowed to rob them of good things and beautiful relationships. Maybe some of them chased success more than their families and now wonder why their son or daughter doesn't come to visit more. Some got everything they ever wanted and dreamed of, yet still felt unsatisfied. Some had the pleasure of having amazing spouses and wake up still confused when their husband or wife of fifty plus years isn't there. They may have been incredible moms and dads, friends, influencers, or experts in their fields.

At one point, they were children, like the ones I get to teach every Tuesday morning. They dreamed about their futures while depending on their own moms and dads for everything and were surrounded by other kids like them also with unknown futures. 

Today, they stared at me, a young twenty-something with a guitar and an iPad, wearing a weird Hukana matata t-shirt. I sang for a tiny fraction of their day. Some were enamored, many smiled, some fell asleep, some didn’t understand, some were frustrated, bored, some danced and had the time of their lives, some were moved thinking back to being a twenty-something with all of their charms, beauty, dreams, and doubts.

Most of these residents deal with minds that are not functioning the way they’d like and wake up not knowing where they are, what year it is, and might even wake up thinking their adult children are still toddlers, getting up to check on them or fix them breakfast.

They do know, however,  the words to a few old church hymns and “You are My Sunshine” as their souls take over for the parts of their brains that don’t work like they used to, and I have the privilege of watching every single one sing along. I started doing this to serve, but now I do this also to be a student. I’ve learned more from playing to these men and women than I have from some of the most impressive musicians. Things that war for my attention or threaten my peace and break my heart lose their power over my joy. They matter, but on a different scale. 

So yes, the lights fade. The crowds of screaming fans go home, and they eventually grow up. The curtain closes and we’re still ourselves. As one of those residents, what would I be able to tell the twenty-something dreamer that comes in to sing for the shadow of Emily Curtis?

One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou, it says, “People won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” 

Now, I always leave Somerby asking myself questions like, “Is the music I’m writing and performing making the person in the back of the crowded room or the empty bar feel as important and seen as the person in the temporary spotlight? Did I make that person want to keep on living in regret and destructive habits, or did I just say something that made him or her recognize the person they can be and already are?” If I can answer, “yes” when my curtain closes as a musician and human being then I believe I will have done the job I was called to do. #leaveamark


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