By Marielle Mohs

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When a group of Twin Cities professional musicians could no longer perform when the pandemic hit, they found a new stage – senior care center parking lots.

As of last week, they’ve now performed over 100 parking lot concerts. It’s become so popular, they want to keep it going far beyond the pandemic.

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In April 2020, Natalie VanBurkleo-Carbonara, the founder of Summit Music, and her daughter performed their first parking lot concert at Village Shores Senior Community in Richfield. That’s where Natalie’s grandma Bernice Crouch lives. They wanted to bring her some joy during the pandemic, when the 93-year-old was confined to her room.

“When I saw more people trickling out on their balcony I knew it could be recreated on a bigger level,” said VanBurkleo-Carbonara, so she decided to come back and perform as often as possible, and started partnering with 15 other senior centers throughout the Twin Cities to bring music to them as well.

“I am so proud of her. It is delightful to be able to say, ‘That’s my granddaughter,’” said Crouch.

Among the other musicians playing in these parking lot concerts is flutist Sandra Sheih. She’s a professional flutist in a chamber orchestra and choir and a member of the only professional flute quartet in the Twin Cities. Those performance opportunities ended when the pandemic hit, so she partnered with Summit Music’s parking lot concerts.

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“It’s not about me being on stage, for me performing is about me connecting with the audience,” said Sheih, which she certainly gets to be witness to now that the seniors are vaccinated and can come out of their rooms to dance and sing along in the parking lot.

One hundred performances is a big milestone, but VanBurkleo-Carbonara hopes to make more, continuing these parking lot concerts through the summer and fall.

However, to reach more senior centers, who maybe can’t afford the parking lot concerts, she wants to be able to gift this music to them.

“It frees up the budget of the senior communities to be able to bring in other entertainers, but it allows us to pay our musicians and do more and make a bigger impact,” said VanBurkleo-Carbonara.

Summit Music is participating in GiveMN’s Spring Forward campaign to raise money to gift partial and full parking lot concerts to senior. To donate, click here.

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To book Summit Music for an outdoor parking lot concert at your senior community, click here.

Marielle Mohs