Dylan Doesn’t Actually Play the Piano.

Dylan signed up to sing for the elderly residents of a local nursing home.

“I really just want to help people,” he told me. So I gave him a choice of two dozen volunteer opportunities, and he decided to sing.

When they emailed him, they said he needed a TB test and a volunteer application.

I told him to call for the TB appointment. He set it up – but then we had to reschedule for some reason, so I rescheduled it.

He had the test and results in less than a week. Meanwhile, he signed up with another nursing home – and this one required a TB test, an application and an hour-long orientation.

So Dylan decided not to do any singing for either place until he finished the orientation – which was in May.

It took him six weeks to commit to a date at one of the places. It took him another two weeks to show up and sing.

And that’s all he did: show up and sing.

He didn’t contact the place in advance, to confirm that he’d be there. He didn’t know the name of the person with whom he’d been communicating. He woke up at 10:30 for an 11:00 gig. He brushed his teeth and his hair, but he didn’t bother to shower. He only ate breakfast because I made him a sandwich to eat during the five-minute drive – but he had trouble choking it down, because he was too busy writing out his set list – the one I’d told him he needed to do at least two days prior to the event.

Dylan said that he spent hours “getting ready” to sing. He played the keyboard and sang songs for hours and hours and hours and hours. We suggested old spirituals, since that’s what the home recommended, and taught him popular songs from decades ago, like Bicycle Built for Two and Let Me Call You Sweetheart.

But Dylan had other plans. He downloaded the lyrics to How Great Thou Art on his phone, and read them while he sang. He only knew one verse of Amazing Grace. He sang at least one pop hit, a few songs from the eighties, and a song from the sixties – by The Monkees – even though he didn’t know how the song went.

He’d planned to spend far more time playing the piano than singing, even though Dylan doesn’t actually play the piano. He doesn’t read music, and he doesn’t look up from the keys when he plays. And while his voice is wonderful and his piano playing isn’t bad, the combination knocks him completely off his game.

His strength is in his voice.

When I finally encouraged him to come out from behind the piano, Dylan started to really sing. Staff members came out of the woodwork and started to dance. Residents started swarming into the room. There were song requests. People from all walks of life were looking down from an overlook upstairs, smiling and pointing.

Dylan was a hit.

When it was over – and in spite of Dylan’s insistence on singing songs for which he had no preparation – the staff begged him to come back.

And in spite of his unprofessional demeanor and inability to prepare, I suppose I’ll take him back again someday.

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