Music man brings tunes to Baycrest
After the death of his wife, volunteer finds joy and healing
In the Fireside Lounge in the Wagman Centre of Baycrest Health Sciences complex, around 25 people gathered to listen to the sounds of winter. Many of them had not been outside that day, but the icy pizzicato of Vivaldi’s
was sending shivers through the audience. Howard Mednick was at the front of the room, guiding them through the piece.
Mednick began developing these presentations when his wife, Fern, was a resident at Baycrest. The former computer systems consultant now puts together presentations on classical music for the residents at Baycrest and other retirement homes, as well as the Life Institute at Ryerson.
“The first time I did a presentation at the Apotex Centre [Baycrest’s Jewish Home for the Aged], a gentleman came up to me afterwards and said, ‘For the last few years of my life, all I want to do is listen to music like you just presented us,’ ” said Mednick. “And I thought, ‘Wow, I’ve really hit the mark with this.’ ”
For the three years that Fern lived at Baycrest, Mednick visited her every day. During these visits, Mednick would open his computer, play her clips from YouTube and get her opinions on his selections. Putting together these programs became the only thing he enjoyed doing.
“Her condition was not good and getting worse,” he said. “It was really tough, but this was part of my therapy.”
After Fern passed away in October, Mednick kept coming to Baycrest. He met new friends and reconnected with old ones and has spent some time contemplating what it means to enter into old age.
“For the people in this room, they’re looking to fill time. That’s why they’re here in the first place,” he said. “So far, I’ve been fortunate. I can still keep doing things, start this whole project the way I have. This is what old age is all about. Nobody knows what to do when you get thrust into it.”
Mednick does two weekly performances at Baycrest. Occasionally, he will listen to a piece that reminds him of his wife. He’s learning about music all the time, which helps heal and keep him focused.
“When I look at everything that I’ve gone through with my wife, and everything else, it’s taught me a lot of patience,” he said. “It can be really frustrating when you can’t do the things that you used to do. I’ve got a few friends who aren’t faring too well, but they’re making the best of it. And that’s what you gotta learn, to try to do it this way for as long as you can.”
Classical music enthusiast and Baycrest volunteer Howard Mednick