By Marielle Mohs

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On an almost weekly basis, Natalie Vanburkleo-Carbonara turns parking lots into her stage. She brings her electric violin out to Village Shores in Richfield to play outside for the residents who live there.

Natalie created Summit Music in 2011, as an outreach program providing in-house entertainment at the senior living residence. When the pandemic hit, her performances were abruptly cancelled.

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However, she didn’t want to give up on visiting Village Shores, which was so much more than a job. Her 93-year-old grandma lives there.

“Our family was looking for ways to have my grandma smile and share joy with her,” Natalie said.

She was inspired to put on the parking lot concerts for her grandma, but the other Village Shore residents quickly caught on and came out to their balconies to listen to Natalie play.

“It was kind of a goosebumps moment,” she said.

Her parking lot concerts became the only safe way to entertain the most vulnerable, who have been more isolated than anyone this year. Cheryl Keynes, who lives at Village Shores, loves dancing along to Natalie’s music.

“This music is like a godsend to me,” Keynes said.

(credit CBS)

Keynes didn’t know Natalie before the pandemic, but they’ve now formed a friendship through a window.

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“When she came to my side of the building, I was just enthralled,” Keynes said.

Natalie packs up her portable speakers and walks around to all four sides of the building to make sure every who may not be able to leave their room has a chance to enjoy her the music.

This music is helping these residents feel less alone in a year that’s kept us all apart.

“It calms me down, and I feel that I can face the isolation better,” Keynes said.

This music is also bringing joy to a year that’s felt so dark.

“We’re blessed to have you here!” yelled a resident from their balcony down to Natalie after her performance.

“Out of all the work that I’ve done in my career, this has been the most meaningful,” Natalie said.

She has put on 70 parking lot concerts since May. She now plays outside at 12 different senior living communities across the metro, as far south as Faribault, and she’s looking to being her music to more senior living centers.

Many senior facilities have tight entertainment budgets. Click here to donate to help fund more concerts.

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Marielle Mohs