Andy Nahas Gives The Gift of Song to Nursing Home Residents

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Rochester Democrat & Chronicle - Jim Memott • February 19, 2013

It's the night before Valentine's Day, and Andy Nahas is in concert at St. John's Home in Rochester, wowing the crowd with the songs they want to hear.

Imagine Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett stepping down from the stage and working the crowd and you've got Andy Nahas, doing it their way, but his way.

"I love him, says Jean Toal, 79, who has lived at the nursing home on Highland Avenue for 13 years. "I wouldn't miss him." "I liked the concert, the whole dam thing," says Judith Watson, another resident.
And why not? Nahas, that rare investment adviser who is also a crooner with a very good voice, carries his listeners back in time. They clap their feet, sway their shoulders, smile and smile some more. Ever smooth, the tuxedo-clad vocalist packs 18 songs into his hour-long performances.

A Brighton High School graduate and founder of the Prospect Fund hedge fund who lives in Rochester and New York City, Nahas has been taking his music to nursing homes for almost 20 years. He started at the Episcopel Church Home in Rochester as a volunteer in the mid-1990s, combining a love of singing with his desire to give back to the community.

"All the while I was becoming more comfortable with the residents and refining my idea of what kind of show I wanted to eventually do," he says, "One that was very professional, interactive, in the round with excellent sound quality."

It turned out that there was a demand for what he did, and Nahas began to give vounteer performances at other nursing homes. The St. John's concert was the second of seven Nahas gave in nursing homes starting a week ago Monday. He was at the Edna Tina Wilson Living Center, Hill Haven, Webster, St. Ann's and The Shore Winds. And he was back at the Episcopal Church Home and at Monroe Community Hospital. His concerts remain a labor of love, though some of the facilities do help Nahas with his costs.

Eight years ago, I wrote of Nahas and a Valentine's Day concert he gave at Monroe Community Hospital. Then, and now, the singer's ability to connect with his audience was on display. He works the room as residents begin to arrive, many of them in wheelchairs. Greeting them, asking their names, getting everyone to sit close together. While he sings to the recorded backup music operated by a sound technician, Nahas weaves through the crowd, stopping to mention people by name, shaking hands, making eye contact, even dancing.

"The feeling that people in the audience get from this is no different than what you or I get when someone says our names or touches us when speaking to us." Nahas says. "It makes us feel more respected and more cared about."

Between songs, Nahas serves up a little banter, a few corny jokes. The audience likes the humor, but they come for the songs. "New York, New York," "Pretty Woman," "My Way." The spiritual "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" is a show stopper as well.

At St. John's Nahas works that song hard, the crowd clapping along as he builds to a high note, his gift to everyone in the room, a singer's Valentine on the night before the big day.