BEMIDJI, Minn. Residents of local nursing homes and senior centers have missed their visiting musicians during the coronavirus pandemic, but that all changed at GoldPine Home recently when Rene and Don McKercher showed up.

The McKerchers set up outside in the courtyard, cranked up the volume, and entertained appreciative residents who listened through open windows at the Bemidji, Minn., assisted living facility.

“They’re waving out the windows, dancing, throwing us kisses,” Rene said.

The McKerchers' mix of old-time, country and songs from the 1960s has brought joy to senior citizens in the area for more than 15 years. After a few months on the sidelines during the pandemic, Rene and Don were happy to be back “onstage.”

“It’s the one thing that we can do for the community and that we’re able to contribute,” Don said, “and we just love doing it.”

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Rene added, “When people say, ‘Oh, that’s wonderful of you to do that,’ I always say, ‘It’s a gift to ourselves as well, because we just get so much pleasure out of giving them pleasure.”

Sarah Sundeen, activities director at GoldPine, said the McKerchers were the first of her usual musicians to return this summer.

“There’s so little I can offer these folks here,” Sundeen said. “So, I am thrilled to receive love from the community. The importance of music is something we can all agree on. It truly carries us through the ups and downs of our entire lives."