English interview by Hong Kong's Information Services Department(2016-10-23)-Retirement, and all that jazz
English interview by Hong Kong's Information Services Department
A tuneful bunch of senior citizens are beating the post-retirement blues by trying their hand at jazz.
Men in Jazz is a project developed by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong.
In it, retirees learn to play musical instruments and go on to perform shows.
The project helps them make new friends and boosts their self-esteem.
Sixty-one-year-old Jacky Leung has loved music since he was young but could not afford music lessons.
After he retired he joined the Men in Jazz project in 2011.
He said learning to play the saxophone has been an enriching experience, allowing him to fulfil a lifelong dream.
"My neighbours sometimes played piano and guitar. The music sounded so harmonious and it was so cool. However, I couldn’t afford the tuition at the time. When I was growing up, I was busy working. Now after retirement I have time and can afford it, so I applied for the Men in Jazz project."
After studying the sax for two years, Jacky formed a group called Men in Purple with eight classmates and performed at his daughter’s wedding banquet.
"I proposed that we come up with a name. We decided on Men in Purple because we are part of the Men in Jazz project and we wore purple for our graduation outfits."
Having three lessons per month, the members soon became a tight-knit group, building a strong friendship.
Last year Jacky was diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatica, which causes painful muscle inflammation.
His love for music and the support of his classmates helped ease his discomfort.
"I had serious pain in my limbs and neck. I couldn’t move and lost my appetite. Music helped me a lot. When I was down I'd play an encouraging song like You Raise Me Up and then I became stronger. My classmates also always encouraged me in our WhatsApp group."
Back in the swing
The Men in Jazz project started in 2011. Its members are over the age of 50.
Now in its fifth year, the programme attracts more than 100 people on average each term.
A one-year programme includes a comprehensive instrument training course. Students can choose to learn clarinet, flute, brass instruments, saxophone, keyboards, or drums and percussion.
Most members have no musical background.
Seventy-year-old Royce Yip is one of them. He learned to play drums and keyboards, but enjoys playing the saxophone the most.
"My retirement life was boring. Playing the saxophone is so cool. I can play it alone or with a group of people. When I play the saxophone with classmates, time flies."
Men in Jazz Project Director Alan Tang said the scheme rejuvenates the lives of retirees.
It gives them an outlet where they seek peace and relax after they have left the grind of the workplace.
"In our studies we found that retired men tend to become more passive. We hope to provide some services to them."
The organiser arranges gigs for the students. The highlight of the programme is a special graduation concert.
Mr Tang said the programme fulfils participants’ musical dreams, helps them meet friends through musical channels and brings musical performances to the community.
Royce said: "It's good to integrate music into the community. When we perform well there is lots of applause from the audience."
Jacky added: "I feel excited when performing on stage because when I was young I never imagined I could play a song in front of so many people. After joining the Men in Jazz project and meeting new friends I’ve become more open and talkative. I think this is my greatest reward."
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