Joe Sirois and Anne Wood enjoy sharing his vast CD collection by providing volunteer DJ and dance entertainment regularly at Rumford Nursing Home and Hope Association in Rumford. Submitted photo

Once Joe Sirois selects a song to play from his vast CD collection, he quickly gets back to the dance floor at Rumford Community Home to join his wife, Anne Wood, and anyone else who looks like they might want to join in on the dance fun.

Besides their volunteer DJ entertainment at the nursing home, the couple also volunteers their musical entertainment at Hope Association during the center’s weekend dances.

For them, it’s really an uplifting experience, they say, and it gives them the opportunity to spend time visiting with their community of friends at both locations.

Names: Anne Wood and Joe Sirois

Age: Anne is 79 and Joe is 78.

Hometown: Rumford

Occupation: Anne is a retired high-school English and French teacher. Joe retired after 28 years of naval service. After his naval career, among other things, he served as administrator of Rumford Community Home, followed by 8 years as executive director of Hope Association.

Joe, what made you want to share your large CD song collection with the folks at Hope Association and Rumford Community Home? Before coming to Rumford Community Home, I had served as administrator of the Marshwood Health Care Center in Lewiston. I had a lot of music from the ’40s and the ’50s and I thought, “Here is a population that will enjoy my music,” and I was right. They did. And I continued playing music for the residents when I came to Rumford.

Describe your CD collection and how you keep track of what you have for a collection. The first record that I ever bought was “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” by Perez Prado. I was 14 years old. I remember the lady in the record store tried to convince me that I would rather have “The Ballad of Davy Crockett,” but I knew what I wanted. I continued to buy records that I liked whenever I had some change in my pocket. I never did buy “Davy Crockett,” although I have it now on a collection of the top hits of 1955.

Once CDs came out, I was on a roll as a collector. I set out to have every song that ever made the top 10 hits for every week from 1930 through 1989. I now have approximately 33,000 songs and am still working on that collection. I have a data base on my computer listing every song by title and artist and location.

Anne, what do you do while Joe is playing his CDs for everyone’s enjoyment? At the nursing home, Joe multi-tasks as he plays CDs and moves about the floor, dancing with residents who either get up and do some steps or who, from their chairs, swing to the music. I move through the room inviting the same kind of dancing, and I also do a lot of chatting. We’ve become friends with residents by now. Joe and I love sharing the stories on the way home.

At Hope Association, it’s a younger crowd that can burn up the dance floor for the entire evening. We’re all out on that floor together.

What kinds of music do the people at Hope Association and the nursing home prefer to listen and/or dance to? At the nursing home, we used to play mostly big band music and the popular songs of the ’40s and ’50s. One little lady would watch and tap her feet. She finally couldn’t stand it any longer and asked, rather peeved, “Don’t you have any rock ‘n’ roll?” With that we realized that the residents of Rumford Community Home are around our age (some a little younger, some a little older). The music from our formative years stays with us forever, so we now play The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Three Dog Night, a lot of rock ‘n’ roll, and an occasional sweet song from 1949 or 1950.

The folks at Hope Association also like The Beatles and The Beach Boys and they really like lots of country, like Johnny Cash and Gretchen Wilson and Kenny Chesney. “Achy Breaky Heart” is a big favorite.

You’ve done some research about music therapy. What have you learned from your reading and from your experience in sharing music with others? First of all, we need to make it clear that we do not do music therapy. That is a very specialized field of study and practice. What we do is just play music for the pure joy and fun of it. We do know that studies have shown music to produce a positive effect on health and well-being. In some cases, astonishingly, people who are non-verbal will sing or mouth the words, and the non-ambulatory will sometimes dance. At times we’ve observed firsthand these exact transforming effects of music.

Much has been written on the benefits of music for people with neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and various forms of dementia. And we know that music is soothing and comforting for many people struggling with pain, aging and illness.

The way we use music – Joe insists on it – it has to be familiar and LOUD. The music therapists may not agree, but it works for us and that’s the way Joe insists on doing it. No further discussion required.

What are your own musical preferences for listening and dancing? For Anne, it’s opera and pop from the late ’40s and early ’50s. Bring it on.

Joe likes jazz and also likes the pop music of the late ’40s and early ’50s. In fact, he will not hesitate to tell you that as a teenager he was a member of the Patti Page and the Frankie Laine fan clubs. We are actually pretty eclectic in our musical tastes. We might listen to Broadway shows one night, Mozart another night, and country or rock and roll on another night.

What else do the two of you like to do when you’re not spinning your CDs for others? We enjoy theater and concerts, and we still travel. Plans are in the offing for a cross-country road trip. We’re active readers and avid walkers, doing the occasional 5K race. We both cross-country ski, hike, kayak and swim. This area is replete with opportunities for outdoor activity.

Why is it important for you to volunteer your time by sharing music? What do you most enjoy about being a volunteer?We always leave the nursing home feeling energized. It’s heartwarming to make all those connections. Often, that wonderful staff get involved and their participation adds celebration and a family dynamic. Music brings people together.

We love the exuberance at Hope Association and know most of the clients personally. Staff always set a spirited tone. We typically close out with everyone joining hands in a circle for a rousing rendition of “We Are Family.” We enjoy an affectionate history with Rumford Community Home and Hope Association. Both are community gems.

Do you volunteer in other ways besides being DJs? Joe is active in Rotary Club and serves on the Hope Association Board of Directors. We’ve both served on various boards and participated in the GRAMPS meal program, Friends of the Rumford Library, and Literacy Volunteers.

As we look around, we see so many other volunteers at work. People offer services in classrooms, the hospital, athletic programs, and at Black Mountain. They knit mittens, crochet afghans, and share other crafts. They organize fundraisers, look after elderly or ill neighbors, and work the Community Garden. Even therapy animals get in on the act and do visits. The giving continues and becomes the fabric of community, and we are happy to be part of the Mountain Valley Community.

Anne Wood and Joe Sirois, right, share a dance with another dance aficionado at Rumford Community Home last month. The couple regularly provides volunteer DJ and dance entertainment at the community home and at Hope Association during its dance events. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

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