Inside 21-year-old Sam York’s apartment, silence is rare.
He’s learning the ukulele while mastering the oboe. He’s musical by nature. It’s an instinct that led him to a most usual living arrangement.
“It's all my space," he said. "I don’t have a roommate that’s like 70 years older than me. It’s just me!”
Sam is starting adulthood where almost everyone around him is entering their twilight.
He lives in a retirement home called Edenwald Retirement Community in the Baltimore suburb of Towson and trading room and board for regular shows.
It’s all part of a graduate program at the Peabody Institute, a world-renowned music program through Johns Hopkins University.
He’s a musician in residence, famous in every hallway.
“Almost every floor I play on I have like my agent,” he said.
Sam's classmate, 22-year-old Sarah Lynn, plays at another retirement home called Springwell Senior Living Community near Baltimore.
“I feel like I am actually part of the community here,” she said. “You know people tell me stories about their past. The happy memories. The sad memories. The hard memories.”
It’s an experience not about the stage but about the soul.
“Musicians have emotions and emotions touch people, and so much of this world is thumbs on a phone, and I don't think people connect with people,” said Edenwald resident Kitty Allen.
“Maybe something has been lifted,” said Kathy Wise, another Edenwald Resident. “Maybe freedom is there.”
Freedom – that’s a word Karen Baranauskus doesn’t hear much.
Baranauskus has worked at Edenwald for nearly three decades, running programs that help residents thrive in their later years.
“So many times when you’re going into a facility you’re losing your home, you’re losing your independence and there’s a lot of loss,” she said. “So, this program will help with that.”
For how much heart Sam and Sarah give, they gain even more.
“They said I was a godsend so that was just really neat,” Sam said. “It’s been a lot of benefit for me too personally. I just feel like I’ve grown a lot as a person, as a musician, like I’ve matured a lot in a lot of ways.”
Sam said he's let go of the pressure to perform, allowing himself to descend into the emotion and flow of his music.
“I feel happy,” Sarah said. “All of my friends have been running into me and saying, ‘Gosh, you seem so happy now.’ And I truly am.”
They’re following the notes and finding themselves.