Charlotte friends form music group to play for elderly
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Friday, Dec. 13, 2013

Charlotte friends form music group to play for elderly

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- ANGEL TRIMBLE
Providence High School sophomores Zachary Rosen, Bryan Culler, Adam Pacholski and Jacob Culler, from left, make up the Cosmic Quartet, a group that performs regularly at assisted living facilities.
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    Assisted living facilities or similar organizations interested in having Cosmic Quartet perform can contact Nadine Rosen at rosentherapy@gmail.com or 704-280-9458.

They had a teacher workday on Nov. 11, so four Providence High School sophomores got together to play some music.

But they weren’t jamming on guitars and drums in somebody’s basement; they were playing three clarinets and a saxophone in front of elderly people. Their parents didn’t make them, and none of them had a relative in the audience. They did it because they like helping people and they enjoy music.

Zachary Rosen, 16, and 15-year-olds Adam Pacholski, Jacob Culler and Bryan Culler have been performing concerts at assisted living facilities since June. They call themselves the Cosmic Quartet, using Cosmic as an acronym for Caring and Offering Seniors Music in the Community.

The Cullers are twins and have been friends with Rosen since second grade at Elizabeth Lane Elementary. Pacholski fit right in with the group when he moved to Charlotte from Chicago in fifth grade. All four decided to try playing an instrument in band when they started sixth grade at South Charlotte Middle School.

Pacholski chose the clarinet because he found one in his grandmother’s basement. Bryan Culler selected the same instrument because his older sister had played it. Rosen was drawn to the sound of the clarinet, and Jacob Culler picked the saxophone. Now they’re playing together in Providence High’s symphonic band and in their free time.

The group met for their first rehearsal in May after Rosen asked if the others would be interested in performing at an assisted living facility.

Nadine Rosen, Zachary’s mom, went online to find music for a clarinet quartet. She searched for familiar songs that would be interesting for the boys to play as well as enjoyable for the residents. She also contacted the activity directors at several facilities to arrange the concerts.

“We originally tried to set up a consistent schedule, but we couldn’t get that coordinated around the boys’ sports and other commitments,” said Rosen. “So we just do it on a date-by-date basis.”

Cosmic Quartet performs at two facilities: Carriage Club on Old Providence Road and Sunrise on Providence, where they play for residents on the main floor and do a second show downstairs in the Reminiscence Neighborhood for Alzheimer’s and memory care patients. Each concert includes several pieces of music tied together by a theme, and the boys take turns introducing themselves as well as the songs.

Their first concert featured songs from movies, and all of the boys said they were nervous.

“We didn’t know what to expect, but (the residents) were really interested and wanted us to play longer. They were tapping their feet and singing along, which was really nice,” said Rosen.

“They liked ‘Over the Rainbow’ so much, we added it the next time, even though it didn’t fit the theme,” added Jacob Culler.

For Veteran’s Day, the guys chose eight popular patriotic tunes, including “America the Beautiful” and “Yankee Doodle,” and performed the set three times on their day off of school (once at Carriage Club and twice at Sunrise).

Rebecca Lynch, the program coordinator at Carriage Club, said, “The boys were an absolute hit. It was so meaningful to have the younger generation here to provide such joy to our veterans living at Carriage Club. It brought tears to my eyes a few times.”

Finding the music, transposing the fourth clarinet part for Jacob’s saxophone, learning and practicing the songs, and then giving the concerts takes a lot of time – which none of the boys has to spare. In addition to juggling honors classes and maintaining excellent grades, the teens participate in a number of clubs and sports. Rosen runs cross-country; Bryan Culler does gymnastics and runs cross-country; Pacholski runs both cross-country and long distance track; and Jacob Culler competes year-round in soccer.

Yet Rosen hosts a rehearsal at least once every weekend, and they all list spending time together as one of the best things about forming the group.

“It’s fun just to hang out with each other, but this makes it more constructive and really adds something to our time together,” said Pacholski.

Cosmic Quartet would like to add more venues to their performance schedule, and they could also use help paying for the sheet music. One piece costs around $15, and they do several songs for each concert. In spite of the time and expense involved, all four boys agree that the effort is worthwhile.

“I really like playing music,” said Bryan Culler. “And (the residents) really seem to enjoy hearing it. They ask us lots of questions and want to keep talking to us, sometimes before, during and after we play.”

The teens have more time off from school coming up, and they will be be harmonizing on holiday tunes in front of their appreciative elderly audiences.

Angel Trimble is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Angel? Email her at trimblecreative@carolina.rr.com.

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