Jon (right) and his dad, James, are well-known accordionists in the Comox Valley. Photo via Facebook

VIDEO: Valley accordion player sharing the joy of music with those most vulnerable

Johnny Cunningham hoping to share music amidst pandemic

Taking inspiration from hard-hit COVID-19 countries such as Italy, a local Comox Valley musician is safely sharing the power of music with community members.

Johnny Cunningham, an accordion player who has busked around the Valley, is now volunteering his time at local care homes in order to share music with those who are considered high risk for the disease.

“I’m trying to cheer [up the residents],” he said, after a performance for about 30 people at Glacier View Lodge Monday.

Some residents sat on a fenced glass patio, while others watched from inside the facility. Cunningham played for about an hour while taking requests on the opposite side of the glass.

“It’s really great – they were singing along to the music and dancing and clapping. They were really sweet.”

Cunningham noted he strongly believes in the power of music, and understands the huge impact it has on people, especially those who are isolated – particularly from friends and family members – during the pandemic.

“(The performance) was wonderful. It means a lot to everyone here – it’s a challenging time for both residents and staff,” said Wanda McMillan, executive director of Glacier View Lodge.

“The quality of life is utmost in our mind for our residents, and one of the challenges is that we are essentially locked down.”

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She explained residents stayed behind the glass, were a safe distance away and were wrapped up in blankets while watching the performance, due to the cool weather.

Liz Friis, director of resident lifestyles and community programs for the lodge, said as seniors are some of the most vulnerable during the pandemic, it’s great to ensure they still feel connected to the community.

“They were yelling out requests, we had another fellow dancing, a woman singing along. It was lovely to see how engaged they were and how much joy it brought them.”

Cunningham said he is contacting other long term care facilities within the Valley with hopes of providing other performances in a safe manner. He added he’s willing to travel to Nanaimo in order to share the joy of music.

“I really just want to do anything to help.”


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