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Musical dream comes true for Grove City resident

| Thursday, April 23, 2009

It wasn't Carnegie Hall, but that didn't diminish Doris Walker's experience performing with a symphony orchestra.

"It was a dream come true. A beautiful experience," said Walker, 75, who played piano recently with the Butler County Symphony Orchestra through a program that turns the dreams of residents of a Grove City nursing home into realities.

Walker, a pianist most of her life, routinely entertains her friends at Trinity Living Center. She played for two weddings that were conducted there, said Jean Dobay, facility administrator.

Through the center's Dream A Little Dream program, Walker was the featured soloist at a rehearsal at Butler Intermediate High School for a symphony performance April 25.

Walker played the main theme from the third movement of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 and "You'll Never Walk Alone" from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Carousel."

"There was not a dry eye in the orchestra," said Elizabeth Heath Charles, conductor and music director of the symphony.

The evening had a traditional symphony "feel" to it, Charles said. After giving an overview of the pieces to be performed, Charles introduced Walker in typical featured soloist fashion.

Walker's family, friends and some neighbors from Trinity Living Center applauded each piece and gave her an emotional standing ovation at the end of her performance.

She was presented with flowers by the orchestra as she took her bows.

"I sure had a good time," Walker said. "I was a little nervous but I got over it."

"She was on Cloud 9," Dobay said.

Charles met with Walker in November and worked out the details for the performance, even writing a string accompaniment for the Rodgers & Hammerstein piece.

"I was pleasantly surprised by what she was able to do. ... She is such a dear, dear person," Charles said.

Walker said she practiced a lot for her orchestral debut, telling herself, "By golly, I'm going to do it. I practiced and practiced until it was coming out of my ears."

The Dream A Little Dream program was created in 2005 and is paid for by the staff. Members of Trinity's quality care team hold fundraisers throughout the year to benefit the program, and volunteers plan the special occasions.

So, did Doris Walker ever have a secret ambition to play Carnegie Hall•

"No, I don't think so. I'm not that good," she said with a laugh.

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