A musician gave LIFE House dogs a special treat on Wednesday — a private concert just for them.
Natalie Helm, a Louisville native, started a nonprofit called Upward Notes in her current home of Sarasota, Florida, that gets classical music “out of the concert hall” and in front of audiences who may not normally have an opportunity to experience it. In addition to animal shelters, Helm and other musicians associated with Upward Notes have performed for homeless shelters, prisons, drug rehabilitation facilities and more.
“I always wanted to have an organization that brought music out of typical areas,” she said.
Helm, who cares for a rescue dog herself, typically plays with other musicians when not playing in an animal shelter, but she performed with her cello by herself for LIFE House. She said the low notes of the cello are similar in pitch to humans’ voices. For animals, it sounds like singing.
While Helm performed a number of songs, the dogs in her audience showed interest. They became calm and a little sleepy, and were also careful to not bark during the music. Helm said that while playing music for animals can be enjoyable for them, Upward Notes performances also bring awareness to the animal shelters that its musicians visit, as well as the other organizations with different causes. Upward Notes has also performed at fundraisers.
Helm’s mother, Linda Jones, invited Helm to perform for the animals on Wednesday as she was in town for a visit. Jones has volunteered with LIFE House for about six months and has lived in Frankfort for seven years. Jones previously told LIFE House about Helm’s nonprofit work and wanted to show Helm the shelter during her visit.
Helm is a lifelong musician. She started playing the violin but switched to playing cello at age 11. She hasn’t turned back. Helm also plays the piano. When she lived in Louisville, she volunteered at the Louisville Zoo and Louisville Humane Society, and volunteering became a habit for her when she moved around the country. Volunteering with animal shelters was her way of getting to know a city. In Sarasota, she joined the Sarasota Orchestra, which sometimes played music for animals and introduced her to that idea. Helm is currently the principal cello of the Sarasota Orchestra.
Betty Martin, president of LIFE House, interacts with the dogs that Helm performed for on a daily basis and Martin said she noticed how calm they became as they listened to the music. She gladly accepted the offer when Helm agreed to perform. Martin said the shelter has not had an activity like this in the past but would be open to doing something similar in the future. She said that it could be a good opportunity for local band students or musicians. The shelter does keep classical music playing over a radio near kennels.
“Having her (Helm) come and perform live is just a real treat,” Martin said.