Rick Barton has been singing and playing the guitar since 1972, but it wasn’t until he became a performer for Audiences Unlimited that he truly grasped the power of making connections with his audience. “This is incredible,” he said. “It’s different every time, but it’s always phenomenally rewarding.”
Performing for people is nothing new for Rick, who has played in a wide range of venues over the years. “I’ve mostly played at the American Legion and at lodges for the Elks and the Moose, that kind of thing,” he said. But it wasn’t until he was playing a gig at his local farmer’s market that Rick discovered Audiences Unlimited and the many connections he could make through music.
“I was playing at the Southside Farmer’s Market, just as I do every Saturday,” he said. Someone approached him and asked if he would be interested in joining Audiences Unlimited.
After a successful audition, Rick quickly discovered how his music could break through barriers of memory loss and loneliness. “I’m 76,” he said, “so the music I grew up with is the music I’m playing.” It’s a genre that plays well across all audiences in a variety of settings.
“I was playing in Ossian recently,” he said. “A woman started crying during my performance. The songs reminded her of her husband and the way they danced together on New Year’s Eve right before he passed away.”
In a memory care center, one resident asked Rick his name four or five times, but that same resident could sing along with every song Rick played. At another senior living center, a resident asked if he could play the trumpet along with Rick. “It was great fun,” Rick said.
Whether Rick is recalling memories from yesteryear or touching hearts in new ways, he’s always glad he’s made the connection. “Performing for AUI is really something special,” he said. “My hope is that everyone can have a little fun for a while as I play. It’s definitely fun for me!”