Matthew Figel studies the piano at the Eastman School of Music, an instrument he loves for its versatility. 

“It can be a solo instrument,” he said. “I can be all alone, but I can also bring friends, colleagues and play with them as well.”

He performs at Valley Manor Episcopal Senior Life Communities monthly and during special events.

“Just because we’re called elders or older people, we’re still interested in the finer things in life like art and music,” Gail Reeves said.

But he doesn’t just play music at the community center… the 22-year-old lives there too.

“It’s an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Figel added. “I’m getting so much life-experience from these residents.”

It’s part of the artist-in-residence partnership Valley Manor has with Eastman: Figel gets to live there in exchange for his talent and the company he provides.

Residents like Janet Wurl love him.

“He’s a sweetheart,” she said. “I think he’s just a really nice person. I love his laugh; he has a distinctive, cute and funny laugh.”

“There’s some retired Eastman professors, some doctors, some poets, some artists [living in the center]. It’s really been special for me to see such a rich background,” Figel added.