If you’ve been around Quaver’s Marvelous World of Music for any length of time, you are probably familiar with Otto Gross – Quaver trainer, songwriter, and the entertaining & enthusiastic character in the Quaver series, Austin Otto. This week Otto shares a heartwarming story about a memorable “conversation” he had with his grandmother.

Take it away, Otto!


Last month, after a Friday afternoon workshop with the wonderful teachers of Prince George’s County, Maryland, I spent the weekend with my family in Owings Mills, a suburb of Baltimore. My time there included a visit with my grandmother, Mabel Brown, at the Forest Haven Nursing Home.

Grandma suffers from acute dementia, which has severely affected her memory and her ability to recognize her own children and grandchildren. Because of this, it can be very difficult for her to carry on a conversation. On my latest visit, however, something happened that transcended the limitations of her dementia and reminded me of the power of music.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 9.39.44 AM

Grandma Mabel and Otto

I was struggling through a conversation with Grandma when I noticed an old upright piano against the far wall of the nursing home’s day room. I quickly walked over to the piano and started to softly play one of Grandma’s favorite church songs, “This is the Day.” I was halfway through the first verse when I heard her sweet alto voice singing over my shoulder, “I will rejoice, I will rejoice, and be glad in it.”

I shifted to another favorite hymn, “Amazing Grace.” First verse. Second verse. She never missed a beat (or 16th note) – or a word. Then came the third verse with that stirring line, “Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” This brought tears to my eyes.

Those precious minutes in the day room are memorable for me, and they make me thankful for the ability to communicate in a language that seems immune to memory loss. Looking back at that special time, I believe music actually bypassed Grandma’s brain and gave me a way to dialogue directly with her soul.

Now I can look forward to many future “conversations” with Grandma through this marvelous medium of music. I’ve never been more convinced of the power of music, and the importance of teaching young people to speak its universal language. Thank you for all you do to bring music to life for your students!

Until next time – Boom-Chicka-Boom, Daddy-O! Austin Otto is out!


How has music created memorable “conversations” for you? Share with us a special time when you experienced the power of music.

Tagged on:     

5 thoughts on “A Memorable ‘Conversation’

  • September 24, 2015 at 10:44 am

    I too sang those songs since childhood.

  • June 15, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    What a sweet story! I am continually amazed at how the brain holds on to music. I can hear a song that I haven’t heard in 30 years and be able to remember all the lyrics. I love that you have found a way to share something special with your grandmother….such a blessing!

  • June 16, 2016 at 8:44 am

    Love the story! Mickey Hart, the drummer for the Grateful Dead, did an interview a few years ago that talked about this same thing. He experienced a similar conversation with his grandmother who also suffers from dementia. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

  • June 19, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    My dad had the same condition and many times we were able to “get through” to him with a favorite song. It helped him participate in Andbe Home activities for a longer time. What a blessing!!

  • June 30, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    Beautiful moments, Otto! My family and I have experienced similar musical moments with my 81-yr-old Mother, who suffers the effects of late stage Alzheimer disease. She can no longer sing the words, but still hums her alto part to Amazing Grace and other hymns. We recently hired a music therapist to spend an hour per week with her, and the neurologist was amazed at her improved response following her first session.
    Another heart-warming music experience occurred this week at my hometown’s 125th Anniversary Alumni Reunion. About 80 alumni gathered to rehearse and perform at the Banquet. The band played Swing March and Beautiful Saviour, followed by the choir who sang Kirby Shaw’s arrangement of God Bless America and The Lord Bless You and Keep You, still traditional standards after all these years. It was amazing to have musicians ftom ages 16-76 singing and plsying together! Such a legacy…

Leave a Reply