Isabella Markham Brings Senior Citizens a “Bellapalooza” of Music

Bella with Fellow Performers at the El Dorado Retirement Center

We love when From the Top performers take Arts Leadership to the next level – 14 year-old violist Isabella Markham, a Jack Kent Cook Young Artist, has done just that by organizing a small concert series for a retirement center with the help of her brother and seven friends.  She titled the performance “Bella Palooza” and it took place on March 7, 2010 at the El Dorado; an independent retirement home located in Richardson, TX. The program included works for cello, violin, viola, and piano. Bella chose this project to provide seniors a fun break from their daily routine. Through the performance, Bella hoped to show that musicians her age still care for elderly people, and that music is a universal form of communication. A talented artist as well as a musician, Bella also created beautiful, hand-drawn flyers to promote the event.

Bella's Concert Program Art

Bella on "From the Top"

“I strongly believe that our culture tends to forget about the elderly and aging. A lot of these people are lonely and they don’t get enough love. Everyone needs someone to look forward to, and I think music makes a person’s heart happy.”

-Bella Markham

The El Dorado Dining Hall

We asked Bella a few questions about the performance and the overall experience:

Bella with pianist Evan Ritter

From the Top: How did you come up with your project idea?

Bella: I chose this activity because I wanted the old folks to have something exciting and new to look forward to in their daily schedule. It seems that they are forgotten sometimes, so I wanted to share the gift of music with them.

From the Top: What was the experience like for you? Did you have a favorite moment?

Bella: The experience was so inspiring and enriching! I would definitely love to do something like this again. Although it was a little bit stressful in having the complete responsibility to coordinate the entire event, it was all worth it in the end.

My favorite moment was after the performance. I went around to each table to talk to the old folks and asked them what they thought about the performance. Their faces beamed with joy and they even wanted me to come back and perform again! I loved seeing them so happy.

From the Top: What do you think the audience took away from the event?

Bella: I think the audience took away the joy and love for music. They truly enjoyed seeing us young performers perform for them. I would never be able to describe how happy they were, they were so overwhelmed with joy.

From the Top: What did you learn from this experience?

Bella: I learned that no matter who you are or what you do, music can connect and communicate to anyone! In my opinion, music truly is a wonder to the universe.

From the Top: Do you think this type of experience can help your development as a musician? How?

Bella: Definitely, yes. This is an extremely humbling experience and reminds me all the time of how fortunate and blessed I am. I think this is why I gravitate towards this particular group of people. I know that my presence and sharing of music genuinely touches their hearts as well as mine. Also, I know that I’m making a difference.

From the Top: What advice would you give other musicians interested in doing a similar project?

Bella: Definitely choose a softer selection of pieces to perform. The old folks seem to enjoy the softer pieces a lot. Also, prepare to talk and introduce yourself to them, this seems to make the performance more intimate and enjoyable. It’s also good to go around and talk with them after the performance; they love to talk with you about what a joy it was to have you perform.