High schooler sings for long-isolated seniors

Kate Lauterbach sings and interacts with residents at Sanford Estates in Roswell. The 17-year-old Marist student has a passion for singing and is channeling it into a day-brightener for seniors. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.
Caption
Kate Lauterbach sings and interacts with residents at Sanford Estates in Roswell. The 17-year-old Marist student has a passion for singing and is channeling it into a day-brightener for seniors. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Chamblee’s Kate Lauterbach has a song in her heart and audiences that are only too eager to hear it.

For the past few months, the 17-year-old Marist high school senior has been performing free concerts at metro Atlanta senior living facilities, where residents are rebounding from a painful year of COVID-19 worries and isolation.

So far, she’s performed at more than a dozen senior communities, some more than once.

The seniors love it and are “definitely uplifted” by Kate and her repertoire of hits made famous by artists, including Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Elvis and the Beatles, said Melissa McDonald, activities coordinator at Sanford Estates Gracious Retirement Living in Roswell.

“To hear and see a young person takes us away from our struggles and ailments for a while and makes us realize that life is still moving and the world has goodness in it,” McDonald said.

Music has been Kate’s passion for as long as she can remember. Her grandparents, who have always been a big part of her life, signed her up for piano, guitar and singing lessons “at a very, very young age.”

She’s played with a band, in talent shows, and at the senior living community in Birmingham, Alabama, where her grandparents now live.

Kate Lauterbach sings for residents at Sanford Estates in Roswell. The 17-year-old Marist student has a passion for singing and is channeling it into a day-brightener for seniors. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.
Caption
Kate Lauterbach sings for residents at Sanford Estates in Roswell. The 17-year-old Marist student has a passion for singing and is channeling it into a day-brightener for seniors. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

After her family moved to metro Atlanta in 2019, in the summer before her sophomore year, she came up with the idea of singing to local seniors as a way to share her love of music and feel connected to her grandparents.

Then the pandemic hit, and her plans were put on hold.

In April, as COVID-19 vaccines were being rolled out and restrictions were starting to be lifted, Kate, who is fully vaccinated, was on the phone cold-calling administrators at senior living facilities.

“I called so many places, probably over 50 places, and I was very surprised by the response,” she said. “It’s definitely been incredibly rewarding.”

Kate Lauterbach sings for residents at Sanford Estates in Roswell. The Marist student has a passion for singing and is channeling it into a day-brightener for seniors. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.
Caption
Kate Lauterbach sings for residents at Sanford Estates in Roswell. The Marist student has a passion for singing and is channeling it into a day-brightener for seniors. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

On June 24, Kate made her first appearance at the assisted living and memory care facility Legacy Ridge of Buckhead.

“Having Kate in our community was an absolute joy,” said Cassandra Ethridge, the community’s lifestyle director. “She came in with such high spirits, great energy, and a beautiful smiling face. We all loved her so much – especially our residents.”

That same day Kate was asked back for return engagements in July and August, said Ethridge.

Seniors in long-term and personal care homes were the most isolated at the height of the global pandemic. Since they were more vulnerable to getting sick, they weren’t able to see family, attend church services, play bingo, or even eat in their community dining halls. To keep the virus at bay, most stayed in their rooms and relied on FaceTime, Zoom, and other video-chat apps to keep connected to their families.

Kate understood.

“People are lonely and need some young people to liven the place up a bit,” she said.

With help from her grandparents and “amazingly supportive” dad, she developed a playlist of oldies and contemporary songs that she thought her audiences could identify with and enjoy.

Some seniors sing along, and others will “just be taking it all in” as Kate sings and plays guitar and piano.

“There are always two or three who are singing along with every song and having a blast,” Kate said.

All of the seniors have been so welcoming and nice, she said.

“They love people to come in, and they love music,” Kate said. “It’s been a really great experience.”

She plans to keep giving the free concerts as long as her school schedule permits. Although music is her passion, she plans to enroll in pre-med in college.

Seniors at Sanford Estates heard Kate for the first time in May and welcomed her back in July and early this month.

“It is so refreshing to see a young person who wants to give of her time and talent to seniors,” Sanford Estates’ McDonald said.

Portrait of Kate Lauterbach before singing for residents at Sanford Estates in Roswell. The Marist student has a passion for singing and is channeling it into a day-brightener for seniors. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.
Caption
Portrait of Kate Lauterbach before singing for residents at Sanford Estates in Roswell. The Marist student has a passion for singing and is channeling it into a day-brightener for seniors. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner


MORE DETAILS

Kate is on the varsity track team at the private Catholic school Marist in Brookhaven. Her specialties are triple jump and long jump.

Her main extracurricular activity is music.

Learn more about Kate at www.kateplaysmusic.com.