Centennial High students pay it forward by going back

Students at Centennial High School, in Ellicott City, are embracing the old-fashioned as they sing to bring smiles to the faces of the area elderly.

Vintage Voices is a student-group founded last year by senior Becky Goodridge as part of her work earning her Girl Scout Gold Award — the highest honor from the scouts. Once a month, the group performs at senior day care centers, nursing homes and assisted living centers, singing songs from the 1930s through 1950s.

"This is the music they know and love, music they listened to when they were young," said Goodridge, 17.

It's been a busy month for Vintage Voices. The group, which has 15-20 students, performed twice this past weekend, at the Winter Growth Adult Day Care, in Columbia, on Dec. 21, and at the Grassroots cold weather shelter at Temple Isaiah, in Fulton, on Dec. 22.

In the past year, Vintage Voices has performed at Fort Meade for Veterans Appreciation Day, Harmony Hall in Oxon Hill and Encore Assisted Living in Ellicott City.

While the group typically performs songs from Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hammerstein or the Andrews Sisters, the Dec. 21 performance had a more seasonal approach with holiday songs.

Last week, as students prepared for the weekend shows, they gathered in the Centennial band room to rehearse their music and choreography.

Last weekend's performances were the first for junior Christi Casey. She had heard of the group from her grandmother.

"They performed at her nursing home last year, and she loved it. She told me all about it," said Casey, 16. "She passed away over the summer and I knew how much this meant to her, so I joined. I just wanted to get involved in something she loved. She said it brought life to the nursing home. It put smiles on people's faces and seemed to rejuvenate them."

Seeing people smile, said senior Alexis Kalivretenos, is the best part of singing in Vintage Voices.

"They get so excited to see us," she said. "It just feels so good."

Other students, like Kristi Kan, who plays piano for the group, loves it when people start clapping and singing along.

And when people sing along, said senior Teela Comeau, it's not as noticeable if someone messes up or gets nervous.

"As soon as people start singing along, you get more comfortable," she said. "It's awkward at first, like everyone's just staring at you up there, but when they sing, it's like you're not alone. They know these songs. They love these songs."

When the students are excited to be there, said sophomore Danielle Kalivretenos, the residents enjoy the songs even more.

"We like being there, and I think they can tell," she said. "I love doing this, and it kind of makes you feel special, that you're connecting them back to their past."

After each performance at a senior center, the students sit and talk with the audience members. That's Goodridge's favorite part, she said.

"It's cool to hear the stories," she said. "Sometimes a song reminds them of a certain thing, and they'll share their memories of that song and what was happening to them when they first loved it."

As she prepares to graduate from Centennial in the spring, Goodridge said she's not worried about Vintage Voices carrying on without her — she knows it will. When she gets to college, she said, she'd like to start a group "wherever I go," and would like to see other Howard County high schools start similar groups.

"I think it's important [for seniors] to know that the youth now still care about their music and their lives," she said. "It reminds them of when they were young, and reminds them of happy times."

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