Piano students give virtual holiday concert for nursing home residents

Residents of Essentia Health Oak Crossing were recently treated to a holiday concert by students of Detroit Lakes piano teacher Sharon Wesbrook. The concert, which lasted three and a half hours, was streamed live online via Zoom.

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Etta Rotter, 8, of Detroit Lakes, was one of the students of local piano teacher Sharon Wesbrook who participated in a virtual holiday concert this past month. Each student got to perform a 20-minute concert for a resident at Essentia Health Oak Crossing via the Zoom online streaming platform. (Submitted photo)

In a typical holiday season, residents of Essentia Health Oak Crossing in Detroit Lakes might gather in the nursing home's lounge area to enjoy a live performance or two, or even go out and enjoy a Christmas choir concert at a local church. Some might even attend a performance at the Historic Holmes Theatre.

This year, however, the coronavirus pandemic has severely limited the opportunities for Oak Crossing residents to enjoy live holiday music, or any kind of group social activity at all. The solution? A virtual holiday concert by the students of Detroit Lakes piano teacher Sharon Wesbrook.

The concert, which involved a couple dozen of Wesbrook's students, took place via Zoom.

"We had performances at six different locations," said Wesbrook, with students gathering at homes in the Detroit Lakes, Frazee and Hawley area. "And it wasn't just kids performing. We had some adults too."

About a half dozen area communities were represented, including not only the three mentioned above, but also Pelican Rapids, Callaway and Rochert. Each performer played for approximately 20 minutes.


Four Oak Crossing staff members traveled around the nursing home with iPads in hand, stopping at as many rooms as they could, with each resident being able to listen to one 20-minute performance and chat with the student for a few moments before the staff member would move on to the next room.

Mary Beth Okeson, who was one of the Oak Crossing staff members that visited residents' rooms to bring the concert to them, said that several of the students developed a good rapport with the Oak Crossing residents during their chats, though some were more shy than others.

Okeson, whose mother, Evlin Olsen, has lived at Oak Crossing for the past six years, said that the concert was a great way to deliver not only some holiday cheer, but some much-needed social interaction for the residents, who have become somewhat isolated from each other as well as their families due to pandemic-related physical distancing restrictions.

"You can tell that they're a little lonely," she said.

Wesbrook said the concert was a great opportunity for her students to perform as well.

"It was wonderful," she said, adding that the performers ranged in age "from 5 to 55."

"The students wanted to do it, the parents all cooperated ... we were able to put the whole thing together in just five days," she said. "Everyone was safe, everyone had fun ... I thought the whole thing was just tremendous."


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Detroit Lakes piano student Cole Rotter, 11, performed for approximately 20 minutes during the 3 1/2-hour virtual concert that was held in mid-December. The concert was organized by piano teacher Sharon Wesbrook and the staff at Essentia Health Oak Crossing in Detroit Lakes. (Submitted photo)

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