Vi Musser could easily be described as one of the biggest cheerleaders for Audiences Unlimited (AUI) and specifically Lillian Embick, AUI’s founder. In many ways, both women shared the same goal: bringing the arts to unreached audiences.
As the activities director at Kingston Care Health Center, Vi knew the power of a live performance. “When God created activities,” she said, “he had me mind.” Her 44 years in the profession, with 17 of those years at Kingston, are a testament to her passion for enriching the lives of her residents.
“Our residents would look to see where I put an AUI performance on the calendar,” she said. Vi organized her AUI performances around themes, such as a Hawaiian Luau or a Christmas party. “For our monthly birthday parties,” she said, “I would ask for a lively entertainer and room at the front for dancing. AUI always came through.”
Vi even organized a Country-Western party. “We would take as many residents as we could out to the parking lot, where we set up tents, brought in ponies, and took pictures of our residents and their families in cowboy hats,” she said. “Our residents and family members danced, and we cooked pork ribs. Everybody knew entertainment was coming, and those performers could
make that place rock.”
Other times, AUI performers filled a more personal role with room-to-room visits. “Room-to-room, personal performances were my passion,” said Vi. “We’d get the guitars, get a cart, and off we would go. I always asked our residents, ‘What kind of song would you like to hear today?’ They would light up; some would sing along.” One person even requested spoons so they could join in the music making.
Sometimes Vi even took the residents’ hands, and they danced. “Whatever movement they could do,” she said, “We would do it!”
During the room-to-room visits, the AUI musicians were also able to bring comfort as family members prepared to say their final farewells to a loved one. “I remember in one of those moments,” said Vi, “one husband asked the performers to play Let Me Call You Sweetheart. He took his dying wife’s hand and kissed her while the musicians played.”
It was moments such as these, along with so many others, that made Vi’s position so rewarding. “You looked in their eyes and saw their smiles,” she said. “The AUI performances reached something in our residents that we didn’t know existed.”
All because of one woman’s dream. “In my retirement,” said Vi, “I occasionally meet with some of my activity director friends. Lillian always comes up in the conversation.” Whether she was making opportunities to take residents to zoo trips, planning an outing to the Foellinger Theater, or providing tickets to the Philharmonic, Lillian made experiences exciting for seniors.
“Lillian was a fireball,” said Vi. “She had a dream that kept expanding. She was amazing. That’s
why it’s so important to keep AUI alive.”