Crooning during the coronavirus: Chateau La Jolla provides live concerts for residents in isolation

Gizeh Guevara sings from a distance for residents of Chateau La Jolla.
Gizeh Guevara sings from a distance for residents of Chateau La Jolla during a series of outdoor concerts at the senior-living community.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

A La Jolla senior-living community brought live music to its residents to help lessen their feelings of isolation during shelter-in-place mandates.

Chateau La Jolla is an apartment complex at 233 Prospect St. for adults older than 55. It initially struggled with “getting everyone to take social distancing seriously” as the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak unfolded, said managing director Wendy Matalon.

After Chateau La Jolla closed the dining room and patios, where the 95 residents liked to congregate, “residents took to their rooms to self-isolate, and now the issue is they’re bored,” Matalon said.

Jeff Fee, one of Chateau La Jolla’s owners, asked Matalon about providing entertainment while residents have to stay in, and she mentioned it to the complex’s head of housekeeping, Gizeh Guevara.

Guevara, who in normal times plays once a month at Chateau La Jolla’s happy hour events, helped Matalon plan a series of concerts over four days in four different outdoor locations so “all residents would be able to see it from their windows due to the configuration of buildings,” Matalon said.

The concerts were held April 27-30 for about an hour each afternoon and involved Guevara setting up a keyboard, a microphone, an amplifier and a computer to aid his performances.

Guevara, who has worked at Chateau La Jolla almost three years but has more than 16 years’ experience as a wedding singer on weekends, is well-liked at the complex, Matalon said.

“The residents all know Gizeh,” she said. “He’s in our happy hour rotation, and when he performs, it’s always the most popular happy hour.”

“He’s pretty much a crooner,” Matalon said of Guevara, who also has played at the La Jolla Community Center.

Guevara said his favorite part of performing at Chateau La Jolla is being able to “perform songs I really like. I can’t imagine another audience that I can play these … American crooner classics [for]. They really like it.”

Guevara said he “was totally on board” when Matalon approached him about the concerts.

“The problem with livestreaming events is a lot of our residents don’t have the technology needed or they don’t know how to manage it,” he said. Live concerts seemed the way to go.

Matalon said the concerts received “positive feedback from the residents” in the form of emails and messages sent her way.

The performances held on Prospect Street for street-facing residents also drew the attention of passers-by, with people stopping their bike rides or walks to listen for a few minutes.

“We even had a guy who brought his children out and they were dancing in the street,” Matalon said with a laugh.

Chateau La Jolla residents take in Gizeh Guevara's crooning from windows, patios and a courtyard during one of his four outdoor concerts.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Guevara said that for the second concert, held on an inner patio, he “could see the residents’ faces from inside their windows and they were really happy.”

During the third concert, held on another inner courtyard, residents leaned against their windows or watched from their patios, dancing and applauding after each song.

Along with the concerts, Matalon has tried to ease the residents’ social isolation by distributing newsletters several times a week with updates, activity ideas and resident stories.

In addition, she said, a Kiwanis member donated several masks, and others made some, but “I still struggle finding supplies.”

“The most vulnerable are the housekeepers who keep going into rooms to keep rooms clean and sanitized,” Matalon said.

Even with all the protective measures, including requiring masks and screening visitors’ temperatures, the worry that COVID-19 will get inside Chateau La Jolla keeps her “up at night,” Matalon said.

However, so far, the illness has not directly impacted Chateau La Jolla, and Matalon wants to keep it that way.

And she will keep planning to find “a way to make the residents smile.”◆