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Music translates beyond language, age

[caption id="attachment_5920" align="alignright" width="200"] Natalie Goodman often shares her musical talents with the community at GreenRidge at Buckner Villas in Austin, Texas.[/caption]

By Paul Clark
Photography by Chelsea Quackenbush

Life at GreenRidge can be very quiet or vibrant and full of melody, depending on when you stroll through. The independent living community of Buckner Villas in Austin is home to 125 residents, all of whom bring a wealth of knowledge and talents. Many choose to share these gifts and the resulting group forms a family who enjoys each other, typically through music.

Long-time resident Natalie Goodman is a wonderful example of this musical. She often plays the piano for chapel services, parties and special events. Natalie shares her gift with others and has quickly become a GreenRidge favorite.

Following a family legacy, she began her introduction to music at the age of 5 and quickly developed a love for the instrument, performing mostly without the aid of sheet music. She can play nearly any song after hearing it once.
Throughout her life, she has learned many types of music, but is partial to the period of her youth. Music from the Big Band Era can often be heard at many of the GreenRidge social events, transporting many residents to a different time and place.

Music is their mission

Reuben and Jane Robertson have shared their musical gifts in a very different way. For more than 20 years, they served in the foreign mission field.

[caption id="attachment_5921" align="alignright" width="200"] Reuben Robertson and his wife, Jane, spent more than 20 years overseas as missionaries in Central America and used their passion for music to spread the Gospel.[/caption]

They helped new churches grow and worked with children in many different environments. After spending a year in Costa Rica to perfect the Spanish language, they served for nearly 20 years in Argentina and southern Mexico, they shared their musical talents in churches and youth camps.

Jane’s mother began teaching her the piano at a young age while growing up in West Texas. She earned a degree in music from Hardin Simmons University in Abilene, Texas.

After taking violin lessons at the age of 10, Reuben quickly developed an affinity for the instrument. While living in Costa Rica, and between five-hour-a-day Spanish lessons, he occasionally played with the Costa Rican Symphony. He also served as the choir director for many of the churches they served, leading the congregations in both English and Spanish. Reuben and Jane personify the selfless and giving spirit that is true of so many people who live at GreenRidge.

[caption id="attachment_5922" align="alignright" width="200"] Roland Johnson has spent his life playing music and perfecting his craft at the bass violin.[/caption]

A house full of music
Roland Johnson’s household believed every home should have the sound of music to cultivate musical ability. This notion planted a seed that would grow into a lifelong passion. Lessons in piano were a logical beginning. But, after playing well in a recital, beginning instruction was no longer necessary.

Between the ages of 7 and 14, he experimented with four different instruments, leading up to a high school summer band session. Roland noticed no one played the bass violin, so he volunteered. After he quickly exceled with the bass, the band director would not allow him to play anything else. He also played in the Shriner Circus Band while it was in town.

Upon completion of college and a stint with the Aggieland Orchestra, Roland married and move to Harper, Texas, to be a teacher. After taking a break from music for six years while serving in the Army, he moved his family to Austin and resumed teaching.

Over the following years, Roland would perfect the craft of his bass violin while playing with numerous bands and orchestras in and around Austin. Almost all of his children and grandchildren are musicians, some of whom play the bass violin.

Roland still plays the first bass violin he purchased in the 1940s. For the last 20 years, he has been a faithful member of The Silver Strings, volunteering in numerous retirement communities of the Austin area. The group is so popular that it must be reserved months in advance.

Recently, while on a family Russian riverboat cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow, he was invited to play with a group of locals. After witnessing how quickly he was able to blend in with the Russian musicians, Roland’s grandson remarked, “Granddad, music translates” into every language.

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