Life & Culture

Striking the Right Chords

Maggie Rothwell, a Hudson Valley NY  singer/songwriter spearheads a Senior Planet virtual Open Mic community where older adults nationwide explore or rediscover their inner musicians. The program takes place the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month with a special showcase coming up in August.  

Can you describe how your love and passion for music, specifically open mics, came to be?

“My mother used to tell me I was born singing and I’ve been singing and playing guitar ever since,” recalls Rothwell.  “I went on to earn a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam in New York.”

After a career as an elementary school music teacher, and a break to raise her children, Rothwell started working as a musician in therapeutic recreation departments of nursing care facilities (“I love it!”) and discovered her own musical voice. Her performances at a local open mic led to her eventually hosting the sessions every week. She picks up the story from there:

How did your open mics at Senior Planet come to be? How has that shaped the vision for your open mics?

When the pandemic started, I didn’t want to lose my wonderful community of musicians, so we decided to create an online private open mic group. In December of 2022, I reached out to Senior Planet because I felt it would be wonderful to share this on a larger platform.”

When was the first open mic with Senior Planet?  

“We started with two pilot programs in May of 2023. Now, we’re currently scheduled for the second and fourth Tuesday nights of every month!”

“She is a pro at fostering an inviting and supportive virtual environment, where performers at any level of musical experience can feel comfortable sharing their talents with others,” adds Nicole Alcime, Senior Planet’s Manager of Virtual Program Experiences.

Attendees agree. Participants say the Open Mic does much more than deepen their music appreciation and skills. They gain a new freedom.

“At almost 80, I can’t do everything I used to do, but am sooooo very grateful that Senior Planet has provided a way for me to do one of the things I love most,” says Vi (at left), an Open Mic participant.

Visit here for details and info on the next Open Mic on August 8.

Open Mic Moments

“We’re focused on music — and we just hosted a songwriting workshop to share tips and discuss ideas, song structure, and lyric flow,” adds Rothwell. 

“We’ve had some fantastic original compositions and covers, spanning various genres, from Broadway show songs to classics from the Motown era. It’s heartwarming to see participants rediscover their musical roots and feel confident in sharing their talents.”

“The challenges have been almost non-existent,” Rothwell says. “The amazing support and patience of everyone involved, especially Nicole, make any glitches feel fleeting.”

Has there been a standout moment or hit song that has left a lasting impression at your open mic?

“Every performance holds its own charm and significance. The standout moments are when participants genuinely open their hearts and souls through original creations, exposing their innermost thoughts and emotions to a supportive audience.

And for me, Senior Planet and AARP have helped me to own my age, be proud of my age, and feel productive at my age.”

When can we expect the Songwriting Showcase?

Tentatively, August 30, from 7-9 PM EDT. Come join us!!


NaBeela Washington, an emerging Black writer, holds a Master’s in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University and Bachelor’s in Visual Advertising from The University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has been published in Eater, The Cincinnati Review, and others. Learn more at


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