Sharing His Love of Music


“It takes a lot of time to prepare and I love every moment of it,” said David Tolan, a resident of Eastcastle Place retirement community on Milwaukee’s vibrant East side. Tolan has a passion for music which he is delighted to share. Each month, he holds a music appreciation program for his fellow enthusiasts at Eastcastle Place. Called From Bach to Joplin, the program includes a featured classical, jazz or contemporary compilation, along with a narrative history and commentary.

Tolan moved to Eastcastle Place from his home in Mequon six years ago. At the time, he recalled, “I looked at another area retirement community but it felt like a large hotel, and this looked and felt like a beautiful home. This is a warm and friendly atmosphere,” he said. He particularly treasures his distinctive apartment which features beautiful woodwork, built-in leaded glass bookcases and a decorative fireplace. This historic residence has large windows overlooking Downer Avenue and Lake Drive.

Professionally Tolan sold life insurance for 50 years. His passion, however, has always been music. “I can’t play a thing but I sing for pleasure,” he said, adding that he performed with Bel Canto, the “oldest serious music organization in Milwaukee for 50 years. They are responsible for exceptionally fine vocal music. I was very proud to perform with them.” He now enjoys attending their performances.

Three years ago, a manager at Eastcastle Place who is aware of Tolan’s talents, asked him if he would put together a music appreciation program for the residents and he was happy to oblige. He chooses the featured composer based largely on who he is interested in researching. “The criteria is that the composer is good in my estimation, and those performing his music are also good,” he said. Tolan cited that programs have featured Benny Goodman, Bach, Louis Armstrong, Brahms and more. For prolific composers such as Mozart and Beethoven, Tolan will prepare multiple presentations.

“People are looking for a key to the door to music, and I try to offer that to them. I try to provide insights on how to listen to the music in order to be able to more fully enjoy it. They’re not just pretty tunes. They have purpose and meaning and the more you understand, the more you enjoy,” he said. “I try to make this very entertaining so people will want to come back and feel like their time was well spent. If you put the program together well, it’s entertaining in addition to being informative.” The evidence is that his fellow residents agree, as there are typically 40-50 people attending the music appreciation program each month.

In addition to sharing his knowledge, Tolan is also pleased to share his talent. Each month, he goes to sing to residents in memory care at the health center at Eastcastle Place. “It’s very important. Music and the human voice are so important for people who have dementia. I typically sing popular songs, and sometimes they’ll sing along. There was one resident with advanced dementia who didn’t talk at all. But at a performance, he suddenly started talking to me and made some requests. He sang along with all of them,” Tolan said. “You read the literature about how this happens, and I’ve experienced it.”

Tolan said that choosing Eastcastle Place as his home was the perfect decision. “I love my apartment and I’m so happy with the opportunities that Eastcastle Place has given me. There is truly something for everyone’s interests and talents. I help in the garden, give talks, sing for residents with dementia…I keep busy and love all the opportunities.”

Eastcastle Place is a Life Plan Community located on Milwaukee’s vibrant East Side. Eastcastle Place offers independent living, promoting an active and engaging lifestyle for seniors. The Health Center at Eastcastle Place offers assisted living, memory support, rehabilitation and skilled nursing services, thus providing complete continuing care for seniors. Eastcastle Place is managed by Life Care Services®. For additional information call 414-219-1398 or visit