Lillian C. Embick was more than just the founder of Audiences Unlimited. For 42 years, she was literally the heart and soul of AUI, working over 90,000 hours as a volunteer executive director to bring the arts to the “loneliest of the lonely.”

For Lillian, the mission was personal. Having grown up in an orphanage for five years of her childhood, Lillian knew something about feeling alone. But she also recognized the power of a performance. Whether it was a circus act or a concert at a local church, Lillian loved the arts as a child and never forgot the way those performances could transport her spirits out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary.

Those early experiences ignited a passion to bring live music and entertainment to people living in nursing homes. Lillian wanted to touch people who otherwise would have very limited access to the arts. And so, with the support of her husband, Byron, she launched Audiences Unlimited in 1972. Initially, Lillian’s husband would play the piano, and they both sang.

In a very short time, Lillian grew her tiny program into a widespread, community-based non-profit that involved several more performing artists and included a close-knit partnership with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.

Indeed, one of Lillian’s greatest talents was casting a vision that captured the imagination of those around her. In this way, she was able to mobilize widespread support for AUI, funding it through both community grants and contributions from local businesses and private individuals. As one grant representative once said, “You don’t say no to Lillian!”

According to Vi Musser, retired activity director at Kingston Care Health Center, “Serving others in this way is a calling. Whenever I meet with other senior living center activity directors, Lillian’s name always comes up in the conversation. She created opportunities to take our residents to zoo trips, the Foellinger Theater, and the Philharmonic. Lilian was a fireball.”

Today, AUI has reached more than 2.8 million audience members in seven different Northeast Indiana counties and has touched seniors living in long-term care facilities, adults with disabilities participating in an adult day-care center, and even young people experiencing neurodivergent learning pathways.

Even though Lillian passed away in March of 2021 at the age of 97, her spirit lives on. Through live music, theater, and engaging and inspiring performances, Audiences Unlimited continues to fulfill Lillian Embick’s mission of reaching people in our community who have diverse needs and abilities, bringing them connection, joy, and the power of performance.

Posted by: