When singer/songwriter Jeff Myers was looking for a new music ministry outlet in 2017, he had no idea he was heading toward an unexpected-yet-rewarding career as an Audiences Unlimited (AUI) performer. “At one point,” Myers said, “I thought I would be a big rock star.” Little did he know that the ultimate performing experience would be playing for unreached audiences in Allen County, Indiana.

“I had been playing in bands for several years,” Myers said. His music career started early, beginning with guitar lessons at age 7. Public performances and competitions soon followed. “I used to play and sing with one of the nuns at church,” he said. “She always thought I could do it by myself. One week she called in sick and I found myself by myself,” he laughed.

Despite that early stage fright, Myers discovered that he wouldn’t “die from going solo” and even came in third place at a televised music contest at Bishop Luers. “I think I won because I was really cute,” he quipped. “Now I don’t have ‘cute,’ so I have to practice!”

Other gigs soon followed, and he even performed with Joe Taylor and the Red Birds in high school. “It was one of the best things that happened to me,” he said. “They always treated everybody like family and really helped me learn how to connect with my audience.” One band led to another, including Headwind and The Answer Band. Soon Myers found himself playing at weddings. “I would slide on the floor with a wireless guitar and even sit on people’s laps,” he laughed. “People always told us we looked like we were having a good time.”

Looking back, Myers believes all those years of performing were really in preparation for his role at Audiences Unlimited. “After I played at my first senior living community for AUI and saw how much people enjoyed the music,” said Myers, “I knew this was it. This was what I had been practicing for.”

“I’ll be performing at a senior community,” he said, “and I’ll see people who aren’t engaged at all until I play a certain song. Then they’ll start moving, smiling, and singing. In that moment, I know that music found a way into their souls.”

Other times, Myers is able to draw out responses from the crowd, telling stories and encouraging people to sing along. “Everybody loves Elvis, right?” he asked. “I share that my parents saw Elvis at the Fort Wayne Coliseum in 1957 and ask who else was there.”

Once, Myers even met someone in the audience who thinks he played for their wedding. “You just never know what connections you’ll discover,” he said. “I love to get them involved,” he continued. “I’m not a performer so much as a friend playing among friends.”

In addition to playing at senior living communities, Myers also performs as an AUI musician at LIFE Adult Day Academy (LADA), where he connects with adults with disabilities. “I have a special bond with them,” he said. “One day, I sat down and asked them if they wanted to write a song together.” The result was “Happiness Is Sharing,” which will soon be produced as a music video, thanks in part to a grant through Arts United.

“I thank God every day for Audiences Unlimited and for these opportunities,” he said. “It is such a gift to play for so many special people that I otherwise never would have met.”

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