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Using music to touch people of all ages

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"Humans associate music with time and people in their lives. I guess, I've done that and I figured everyone does," Suzanne Fabian-West says.

A lifetime of singing and a few years of guitar-playing have given her the tools not only to make her world go round, but also to give others a glimpse of a sometimes forgotten world.

Originally from Elyria, Ohio, Fabian-West has been surrounded by music since her youth.

"My mother sang in church choir and my sister played piano," she said, "I was in chorus, church choir and school plays. I sing in the shower, I sing in the car, I sing wherever."

A move to Red Wing in 2003 eventually opened the door to a job as an activities assistant at Deer Crest, working primarily with memory care residents. She incorporated her side job -- a gig-singing, guitar-strumming act -- into her day job and now performs weekly for senior residents.

"Music makes people happy," Fabian-West said. "Songs will take you back - like remembering dancing at a wedding to a certain song."

Generations apart, Fabian-West and her residents share the common interest of song.

Learning and playing by ear only, she has been able to connect with them through music, enough to learn their songs on her own time in her compact living room.

"The residents inspire me. I hear the music they like that I didn't grow up listening to," she said. "Even someone with Alzheimer's that can't remember what they did five days ago can remember every word of a song."

After she learns some songs from residents' genres, the favor is returned when she teaches them hits from the 1960s or '70s.

"I would say I have old soul. They are very receptive of songs I have taught - like 'American Pie' or 'Little Red Riding Hood.' I get them all howling with me. It's wonderful," Fabian-West added.

She also plans to continue performing at local bars, coffee shops or wherever else she is able under her stage name, Siouxsie West.

"I always have been involved with music and always will be - it is the universal language that reaches out and touches people whether they are 4 or 94 years old."

If you go...

Who: Siouxsie West, aka Suzanne Fabian-West

Where Roxx Bar & Grill, 310 Plum St.

When: 6-9 p.m.

More info: 651-388-0028 or

Stacy Bengs-Silverberg

Stacy Bengs has been a photojournalist at the Red Wing Republican Eagle since 2010. She holds a bachelors degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota.

(651) 301-7880