From roles in high school musicals and solos in the college choir to the stages of famed opera houses, Joan Winden’s voice has carried her all around the world. Now, through her work with the Friends of Music at Stanford, Joan is keeping music at the center of her life and sharing this lifelong passion with her fellow residents at Vi at Palo Alto.
From Childhood Piano Lessons to the World Stage
Music has always been a constant in Joan’s life. “I remember as a child coming home and telling my mom how happy I was singing in school,” she shared. Joan’s talent grew as she did. Piano and voice lessons as a child prepared her for starring roles in high school, where she performed in “Robin Hood” with her future husband, Bill. “I was Alan-a-Dale and he was Will Scarlet,” said Joan. Together they went on to Stanford, where they were both soloists in the Stanford Symphonic Chorus. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Music, Joan was accepted into San Francisco’s esteemed Merola Opera Program to train as a mezzo-soprano. A distinguished career followed, with Joan performing in opera houses in both Switzerland and Germany, stateside for the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., and later in the Seattle and Portland operas.
Bringing Exceptional Talent to Her Life Plan Community
In retirement, Joan has no plans to leave music behind. In fact, the proximity of Vi at Palo Alto to Stanford has enabled her to rekindle her connection with the music program that helped launch her career. As a member of the board of directors for the Friends of Music, whose mission is to enhance musical activities on campus and in the community, Joan saw an opportunity to bring the talents of young Stanford musicians to the residents of her senior living community. With her help, Vi at Palo Alto has hosted many popular recitals in the community’s auditorium. Joan hopes it will continue to bring both communities, Vi and Stanford, closer together, creating personal connections between the residents and the students. “We had a young man perform at one of our recitals who is from Hong Kong and working on his doctorate. One of our retired doctors who is also from Hong Kong asked him to dinner to make him feel more at home. We want to make the musicians feel welcome here.”
A Personal Passion for Music
Joan loves that with the help of Vi at Palo Alto, she’s been able to keep music at the center of her life. She sings with their choir weekly, and she keeps a grand piano in her apartment. “It takes up so much of my room the same way music takes up so much of my life!” laughed Joan.
And while her work with the Friends of Music brings music to Vi, Joan is also often spotted on the Vi shuttle with several fellow residents and music lovers headed to performances at Bing Concert Hall and Stanford Memorial Church. After so many years as a performer herself, she is enjoying her time in the audience. “It’s great to be able to participate as a listener,” Joan said.
Joan also enjoys longer music-themed field trips to Opera San José. “It’s very nice that there are other opera lovers here,” she said. Sometimes residents want to pick her brain about opera and she’s happy to oblige, although to Joan it’s not a big deal. “It was just my job, and I loved it,” she said.