Alumnus brings music to assisted care centers

Residents of assisted care living centers received a special visit from a nationally known artist.

SIU Alumnus and marimba musician Kevin Lucas is performing his annual “Operation Give Hope” tour at five local nursing homes and assisted living centers from Aug. 27-31. This is the sixth consecutive year in which Lucas has appeared at local venues to perform for elderly residents.

Lucas attended SIU for graduate school in 1996 after living in the Chicago area. Since 2007, the Pomona resident has made the tour a priority each year because of his passion for bringing hope to a generation he thinks is too often forgotten.

“I love working with the elderly,” Lucas said. “They’re the best people to talk to in life.”

His love for nursing home outreach started when he was part of an ensemble that made it a priority to perform for the residents. The troupe leader said something to Lucas that has resonated with him to this day.

“He said that most people you play for want to hear you play. These people need to hear you play,” he said.

Lucas has enjoyed performing at nursing homes since then, and he isn’t the only one who does.

Carol Hughes, a resident at Jackson County Rehab Center in Murphysboro, said she is uplifted by Lucas’ music.

“It’s great,” she said. “It’s something that’s different for us.”

Lucas kicked off the tour with a performance at Big Muddy Assisted Living in Murphysboro Monday. Jane Williams, an administrator at Big Muddy, said that the residents got a lot out of his show.

“They loved it,” she said. “It was very different and unique.”

In between songs, Lucas detailed the history of the marimba instrument, which includes how it was made, and answered questions from the residents regarding his process.

Lucas formed his current band, The Kevin Lucas Orchestra, in 1997 and gained commercial success with singles “I Can Dream” and “Green and Blue” appearing in the Adult Contemporary Top 40 for New Music Weekly. They also opened for Grammy award winning artist Christopher Cross in 2000.

Lucas will play at the Oak Grove Rehab Center in Carbondale Wednesday and Helia Health Center in Carbondale on Thursday before concluding the tour at Liberty Assisted Living in Carbondale on Friday.

All performances begin at 2 p.m.

Lucas hopes he can continue to showcase his talents to nursing home residents for years to come, and he encourages youth to find ways to use their talents in the same fashion.

“Everyone should spend some time in a nursing home,” he said. “It should be part of the college curriculum.”

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