A Harmonious Duo–Methodist Home

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By Christy Brudin

Music knows no boundaries. It can transport you – taking you back to your youth or helping you recreate a special memory. It can also foster strong connections, bringing together strangers and creating friends.

When music aficionados Dominic Chianese and William (Bill) Henry Shave joined together in song at The Methodist Home of the District of Columbia – an assisted living and skilled nursing care community in Northwest Washington, D.C. – the connection was undeniable. The two passionate musicians quickly became a harmonious duo.

Dominic Chianese is an actor and musician best known for his role as Uncle Junior on the HBO TV series The Sopranos. Chianese’s acting credits also include The Godfather Part II and several other films with Al Pacino. An accomplished musician, he has also released several CDs featuring American and Italian songs.

Throughout his career, Chianese has remained dedicated to giving back to his community through his art. He established the Joy Through Art Foundation to enrich the lives of nursing home residents by connecting them with professional artists. When he contacted the American Health Care Association looking for a local facility where he could perform, they suggested The Methodist Home. During his first performance, Chianese met a less famous but no less passionate singer: Bill Shave.

Dominic Chianese and Methodist Home resident WIlliam Shave were connected by their love of music.

Dominic Chianese and Methodist Home resident WIlliam Shave were connected by their love of music.

Shave moved to The Methodist Home in 2010 to receive the care he needed in a comfortable and safe environment. He quickly developed a reputation as the community’s most accomplished – and zealous – singer.

“Mr. Shave was very active in all of our programs,” remembered Linda Moreno, Methodist Home’s Director of Therapeutic Recreation. “He would lead Karaoke, but he sang from the time he got up until he went to bed, and he encouraged other residents to sing along with him.”

During Chianese’s initial performance at The Methodist Home, Shave was the first to join in. “Everyone was singing, but of course Mr. Shave sang the loudest and knew every song,” Moreno said. “When Mr. Shave started singing, Dominic immediately started walking toward him.”

“When he sang, he inspired me,” recalled Chianese of his new friend. After that first performance, Chianese stayed to sing one-on-one with Shave. He also offered Shave his guitar. Shave readily accepted and quickly began playing and singing “Danny Boy.”

What Chianese didn’t know at the time was that Shave had left his most prized possession, a vintage Gibson Guitar, behind when he moved because it had become so difficult to play. The opportunity to sing and play again was truly priceless to him.

During subsequent performances at The Methodist Home, Chianese always invited Shave to accompany him and welcomed his booming voice. The two men quickly came to respect and appreciate each other as true music lovers.

Knowing how much Chianese’s performances had meant to her father, Bettie Shave reached out to him after her father passed away in late 2012. Chianese expressed his desire to attend Shave’s memorial service and even cleared his schedule so that he could be present to honor his friend.

During the memorial service on March 19, 2013, at The Methodist Home, Chianese performed “Amazing Grace” and “Danny Boy” and led a sing-a-long in memory of Mr. Shave following the service.

“I know that music heals, and Bill knew that music heals,” Chianese said prior to his performance. “Whenever I sang here, he would sing along, and he sang with love. That’s the most important thing: he had love, and he shared it.” He continued, “I’m so happy to be here to sing for his memory, his inspiration, and to sing for everything he stood for.”

While Dominic and Bill’s friendship was brief, it was based on a shared passion that has sustained both men throughout their lives. They were never a famous duo, but when their voices blended, they experienced real harmony.

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