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EHS Musician Bringing Smiles To Senior Citizens
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Smiling as he responds to questions, Escalon High School senior Mitchell Cole was interviewed by Good Day Sacramento/CBS 13 News during a live segment for the ‘Good Day’ show on Monday morning, April 20 outside Astoria Senior Living in Oakdale. Marg Jackson/The Times

It started out as a way to bring a little cheer to his grandmother on Easter Sunday.

From there, it has grown into quite a busy schedule, with local teen Mitchell Cole playing music at several locations around the region.

A senior at Escalon High School, Cole plays in the band, sings in choir and was a member of the 2019-20 State Championship football team. At well over six feet tall, he is already a larger-than-life presence and his newfound mission to bring smiles to the faces of people he doesn’t even know just adds to his lore.

“His heart is all gold,” said his grandmother, Judy Westall.

On Easter, with ‘shelter in place’ directives, Cole decided to take his saxophone and play some songs outside his grandmother’s house.

“She’s trapped inside, trying to do her part,” Cole explained. “I decided I should help her pass the time by playing some music for her.”

The senior typically uses a couple of different saxophones to perform – including a new alto saxophone that was given to him by his dad – and his impromptu concert for his grandmother on Easter has blossomed into an unexpected but welcome musical tour.

“One of the neighbors asked if I would mind visiting some care homes to play, sort of half joking,” the teen said.

But with some time on his hands as schools are closed down and he attends classes virtually, Cole was able to work it out. The neighbor, Ryann Smith, works for Seva Hospice in Modesto and has helped coordinate Cole’s busy new ‘concert’ schedule.

“I had seen it on Facebook, his serenade for his grandma and asked if he wanted to play for some of the (area care home) residents,” explained Smith.

He has played music for residents at three different care homes in Modesto, one in Riverbank and, this past Monday, April 20, at the Astoria Senor Living in Oakdale. His mom was there to record the event and several staff members at Astoria also had their phones out to capture the moment.

The performance featured more than a dozen songs and also gave the senior some exposure to a larger audience, as Good Day Sacramento did a live segment from his morning appearance.

He has enjoyed being busy and sharing his music.

“I’m booked,” he said, adding that last week, he was busy playing music every day at one location or another.

“He’s such a sweet kid,” noted his mom, Gail Allard. “He just loves to make people happy … and if he can do it with music, even better.”

With the coronavirus guidelines in place, he doesn’t go into the senior citizen/care homes; he plays outside and performs at a few different places around the facility. That way, he can spread the music for all to hear and enjoy. Cole said he will play a few songs at one spot, then move around the building and settle in for a few more numbers at a different location.

“For the foreseeable future, I’ll be playing,” he said, chuckling. “I have nothing better to do right now.”

His grandmother said she is proud of him and is pleased that other people get to enjoy his music.

“He’s such an angel,” Judy said. “And coming over on Easter; that was all his doing.”

She pointed out that her grandson has been accepted at the UOP Conservatory of Music so will continue to pursue his music studies in college. Judy said she also knows many of his classmates – several of whom were also teammates for Cougar football – as she spent 23 years working at El Portal Middle School prior to retirement.

“I am so proud of those kids,” she said of the Class of 2020, navigating the final few months of their senior year under the most unusual of circumstances.

And while he also was a member of the EHS choir, Cole said he hasn’t done any singing in public – yet – preferring instead to perform with just a couple different saxophones.

“Really, it just feels good to serve the community,” Cole admitted. “It’s really special that I get a chance to cheer up a lot of people.”

Warming up, Mitchell Cole plays a tune on his saxophone; he performs a wide variety during his concerts at local care homes. Marg Jackson/The Times