Mudcat Café message #759143 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #49818   Message #759143
Posted By: Genie
03-Aug-02 - 02:48 AM
Thread Name: Getting nursing home gigs
Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
OK, folks, for those of you just dying to hear my lengthy tale of being asked to refund payment for a gig, here goes:

The proprietor of a small adult foster home, based upon having heard me play and sing for folks at another group home where she had worked, called me to book a regular monthly sing-along/music therapy session for her residents.  She was, by her own and others' accounts, a zealous devotee of a fundamentalist Christian sect and preferred to emphasize religious music for her residents.

When I arrived for my first program, there were 4 or 5 residents present (I forget which).
-One relatively young man, who may have had some mental disorder but no dementia, asked me to play "The Blue Danube Waltz."  (I am not really an instrumental guitarist.)  When I did not know how to play it, he became very disgusted and went back to his room.
-One woman who was ca. 100 years old and in one of those reclining "geri-chairs" stayed asleep during the whole program.
-One woman who was probably late eighties or early nineties sang along with me on quite a few songs.
-Another woman of about the same age did not do much singing but seemed to pay attention to most of the songs.
-If there was another woman there, she was mostly like the last one I mentioned.

I tried out various kinds of music, including the oldie sing-alongs like "My Bonnie," "Take Me Out To The Ball Game," "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," and "You Are My Sunshine," to modest success.  Then I switched to hymns, and the proprietor seemed to really light up.  Together we sang "It Is No Secret," "The Old Rugged Cross," "Just A Closer Walk With Thee," "Jesus Loves Me/He's Got The Whole World In His Hands," "In The Garden," "What A Friend," etc., and Stephanie (the proprietor) seemed delighted with the songs and with the response of the group.  We sang harmonies, got folks involved with the music, etc.  She proceeded to write me a check for the amount we had agreed on.

A month later, I drove back early from Seattle--having turned down one or two other engagements to do so -- for my previously scheduled second visit to the foster home.  When I arrived, one of Stephanie's workers, who was in charge that day, told me I was not on their schedule.

When I spoke with Stephanie the next day, she went into a tirade about how worthless my music was -- in particular, how my selection of songs to sing was not worthy of being anything but a free program.  I then reminded her of my "satisfaction guarantee" policy and asked why she had not said anything at the time of the first program.  She then pounced on the "money back" idea and began to demand a refund of the money she had paid me after that first performance.  But she would not tell me -- since she was denouncing my selection of material -- what kind of music it was she had been or was looking for!  She refused to give me any sort of specific feedback as to what was unsatisfactory about my music.  (Remember, she had heard me a few times before.)

I ended up writing her a letter stating that, while I would not have charged her for the program had she told me at the time that it was unsatisfactory, by failing to tell me that she was cancelling our "monthly bookings," she had cost me more than the amount she had paid me, so I would just consider it even.

Then she began to sort of "stalk" me in a weird way.  She wrote me several nasty letters, and she told me that she had "called around and learned that I had a reputation" for being lousy at this.  I made quite a few inquiries of my own and was unable to find any activity director who had even been contacted by her, much less anyone who said they were dissatisfied with my work.  Stephanie even told me that the proptietor of the group home where she had first heard me had told me she didn't like me and didn't want to keep hiring me.  Not only did that woman completely dismiss this as utter nonsense, but she continued to hire me many times a year for several more years.

It's possible that Stephanie just wanted to enhance her budget.  (Hence, the "opportunistic" epithet.)  Or she may have been a nut case.

One even more bizarre thing that may (or may not) tie into this is that something happened a year or so later that made me wonder if someone was calling around claiming to be me and saying who-knows-what?   There was a very upscale retirement community where I had played once when I first started doing this sort of job.  They hired musicians only 6 times a year and  had a long list of performers, so I didn't call them back for about 5 years.  Then, when I did call back, I was told, "You keep calling here, and we've told you that the residents said never to hire you again, and we've told you to stop calling, but you keep calling!"  Nothing I could say could persuade them that I had
never been told I would not be rehired,
never been told not to call back,  and
not, in fact, called them in 18 months to 2 years.

In all probability, the confusion is just from having multiple staffers handling phone calls and performers with similar names (like the old children's game of "Gossip" or "Telephone").  But given Stephanie's other bizarre behaviors, I sometimes wonder...