Resident writes song to honor Casa de Mañana in La Jolla


Leslie Miller, a musician and resident of Casa de Mañana, came up with a melody about three years ago and recently decided to add some lyrics to it and dedicate it to the retirement home, a jewel on Southern California’s coastline.

“The song is like Casa,” Leslie said. “Like the building, the song is gentle and graceful.”

Leslie is somewhat of a celebrity around La Jolla. Blind since birth, she has lived here since she was 12 years old. She became a professional musician at age 51, producing three CDs.

Leslie plays the piano and organ, and sings for all occasions. She even works as a volunteer at Scripps Hospital twice a week where she performs songs like, “My One and Only Love,” for patients awaiting treatment.

Leslie insists that not being able to see does not foster her creativity on the piano. “Ray Charles happened to be blind, it helped his career in that people were sort of fascinated with his handicap, but even without it, he would have still been a great musician,” Leslie said.

Since she plays by ear, Leslie had to tape the tune on her digital recorder so she could listen to it and eventually commit it to memory.

“When you play by ear, all the notes come from your mind,” she said. “I learn melodies by playing them three or four times, and at that point, I have a pretty good idea that I can play them.”

She wanted lyrics paired with her tune, so she searched Casa to find someone who would be able to write the words for her without the help of sheet music. Fran Hay, who shares Leslie’s love of Casa, became her songwriter.

After Fran composed the words, they were put into Leslie’s Braille machine so that she, too, could learn the lyrics. Leslie also used her own funds to copyright the song for her beloved retirement home. After the lyrics were written, Debra Moore, executive assistant at Casa de Mañana, found a Ph.D. student at UC San Diego who put Leslie’s notes and Fran’s lyrics onto sheet music.

On July 23, residents, family and friends were able to sing along with Leslie at the “Casa de Mañana Song Launch.”

“I don’t know of any other retirement home that has its own song. Leslie, why don’t we write songs for other retirement homes?” Fran joked after the celebration.

History of Casa de Mañana

• On July 4, 1924, Isabel Morrison Hopkins opened Hotel Casa de Mañana (House of Tomorrow) with its picturesque arches, tiled roofs and views overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The hotel quickly became the social hub of La Jolla. Accommodations were exquisite and the cuisine world-class.

• In 1953, Hopkins sold the hotel and soon afterward, Casa de Mañana re-opened as a luxurious retirement community with 108 charter members in residence. Hopkins died three years at age 70. — Casa de Mañana