The ‘miracle of music’ is in our own backyard

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Walt Kaplin at the DJ booth. photo courtesy of Walt Kaplin

I recently went to dinner with longtime client Walt Kaplin, a Tacoma native and well known vintage car enthusiast. Born and raised in Tacoma, Walt and his lovely wife Joanie have been involved with music since the 1960s, renting various halls in Tacoma, promoting dances for social events and a variety of fundraisers for needy organizations. Walt and Joanie were charter members of a local car club in the 1980s, and within a few years they were putting on vintage car shows at the Tacoma Dome, Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden and the Thurston County Fairgrounds in Lacey. In addition, for 10 years the couple put on the Family Affair Car Show at Dacca Park in Fife. I personally assisted Walt and Joanie with their advertising and marketing, providing ideas that would be of interest to our readers. It became obvious to me that their love of music was also their passion, and they demonstrated it at all of their music-related events and dances throughout the Northwest.

Walt and his wife Joanie met when they were youngsters in the 1950s and that initial spark of attraction never faded throughout their blessed marriage. photos courtesy of Walt Kaplin

Five years ago, Joanie became ill and the dances came to a halt. Walt shut down all of his outside interests, with the exception of the Northwest Automotive Event Calendar, now in its 24th year of publication and considered the bible of automotive- related activities, so he could remain at home and take care of Joanie, playing her favorite music including the Big Band era and spiritual songs that Joanie’s mother played on the piano when she was growing up. In August 2015, Joanie passed away and Walt was devastated. A few months before Joanie passed, as Walt told me, she made him promise to continue to provide music for the older generation. It’s good therapy for mind and soul. Walt promised Joanie that he would continue what they started years prior.

Several months later, Walt called me to discuss future plans for the Fife Family Affair Car Show and other music related matters. Walt turned the car show over to the City of Fife in 2016, sold the family home in Gig Harbor, liquidated additional interests in the community, downsized and moved to Fircrest so that he could be close to his childhood roots, the church and friends.

In July, Walt received a phone call from Timothy Anderson, Active Living Program director for Merrill Gardens Senior Living in Tacoma, asking if Walt would be interested in playing music for their residents. The two met for lunch, discussed a format and on July 21 Walt played for an audience of more than 60 retirees. After the hour-long music session, several Merrill Gardens residents came up to Walt to thank him for the fine music, fulfilling requests and playing music related to their personal family and the good old days, as they mentioned. But there was one lady whose story changed Walt’s future plans forever. She told him that one of the Merrill Gardens residents who was wheeled in to take part in Walt’s afternoon of music was known to have not spoken at all during the time she has been at the retirement community. When Walt played a special request from the audience, the lady told Walt that this woman who never spoke not only knew the songs but remembered every word and sang in tune. After a couple more songs, the lady in the wheelchair was taken back to her room but on the way out she gave others in the room a thumbs-up sign.

“The ‘miracle of music’ filled the room,” Walt later told me, and it also reminded him of the conversation with his wife Joanie and the promise he made to her to keep the music playing.

Walt took things a step further by going to Olympia to officially form a limited liability corporation and the name approved by the state is MYMUSICTHERAPY, LLC. The theme for his company is: “Music for the children and grandchildren of the greatest generation – You!” Walt also informed me that he will be playing music on a regular basis for Merrill Gardens, the Tacoma Lutheran retirement community and the VA Puget Sound Health Care System.

As a collector of some 65 years, Walt has the capability of providing almost any song that has ever been commercially recorded and personally takes 31,600 songs of all genres to his pro bono and commercial events such as banquets, conventions, holidays, graduation and weddings.

I plan on continuing to follow Walt in his new endeavor, reporting on his most important music mission and his theme of providing music for the children and grandchildren of the greatest generation to fill a huge void in Pierce County. It is long overdue.

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