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New documentary to spotlight West Michigan musician's dedication to bring live music to seniors

Bob Rowe
Posted at 5:18 PM, Jul 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-13 17:32:49-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A new documentary set to air on public television will spotlight a West Michigan man and his decade-long passion of bringing live music to seniors.

"I just had music in my blood as a passion ever since I can remember," said Executive Director of Renaissance Enterprises Bob Rowe.

Bob Rowe has spent decades bringing live music to seniors after getting a taste of what it was like at age 17. He was invited to accompany a nun with his guitar to some nursing homes.

"I would sing ‘You Are My Sunshine’ or ‘This Little Light of Mine,’ and I would see this person light up. That was like my ah-ha moment in life. It was, ‘Ok, I have got to do this,’ so that is when it all started," said Rowe.

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The Battle Creek native started his music career in clubs, coffee houses and concert halls around West Michigan and Chicago.

By the 1980s, he was opening for major artists, including the legendary Green Valley Boys.

In 1988, Rowe created Renaissance Enterprises, a nonprofit providing free music and art programs to places like nursing homes and other institutions.

"We all could be sitting in a nursing home someday lonely as heck with nobody to visit us, nothing to look forward to, wondering how we are going to get through one day let alone unlimited amount of days. For us to be able to go in there and bring a smile to a face of someone that maybe hasn’t smiled all week, what a gift that is to us to be able to do that," said Rowe.

That work got him many awards, including the Mother Teresa Laureate in 2006.

All of this and more on his life will be outlined in a documentary called An Instrument of Healing. It is set to air over Labor Day weekend.

"It was just kind of an interesting thing, because I never really saw any kind of publicity for this. This work is deep to my heart, and something I never really wanted to do publicity about," said Rowe.

His hope for it is that people take away a message of helping others.

"There are just so many things that we could do to help humanity. That would be my hope and my prayer for this documentary is that people who watch it and be inspired to help others," said Rowe.

An Instrument of Healing is set to air on PBS Public television network.

  • Aug. 24, 2021 on WGVU Life at 10 p.m.
  • Aug. 27, 2021 on WGVU-HD at 10:30 p.m.
  • Aug. 31, 2021 on WGVU-HD at 3:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

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