Stepping inside Andrews of Stratford for the first time was an emotional experience for Steve Zaat.
For years before his death in January 2021, Steve’s father Cornelius “Con” Zaat, a beloved P.E.I. musician, played regularly at Andrews Senior Care homes. So, when Steve, a musician in his own right, started doing shows with Andrews in 2022, it felt like a sort of homecoming.
“I feel his presence,” Steve said of the activity room where his father spent so much of his later years entertaining residents. “I feel honoured to be able to follow in those particular footsteps. I know he was really proud that music had continued.”
Music has always been central in Steve’s life. Whether it was playing guitar around the house as a teenager, or singing with his sister in the local Dutch choir. As he got older, music became less of a private passion and more of a trade. In 2022, Steve released his second studio album “Not that Far”, which explores themes of grief, loss and healing.
His decision to start playing senior care homes was influenced by seeing the joy his father brought to people as well as his own religious beliefs.
“I wanted to do something that was purposeful,” Steve, who is Baháʼí, said. “I could play at a pub and sell a bunch of drinks, but with a bit of a higher purpose in mind, I feel like performing for seniors takes it a step above.”
Steve performs “Prince Edward Island, A Home Away from Home,’ written by his father “Con” Zaat.
Sharon Woods-Bryenton, program coordinator at Andrews of Stratford, said having Steve perform has been a treat for the residents.
“’Con’ was an Island treasure and our residents loved his visits and music,” she said. “When Steve called after he moved back to the Island, I knew it would be like having a part of ‘Con’ back. Both Steve and Con are extremely accomplished musicians, but it really is their heart that shines through as you can see the joy they give and get from performing and sharing music with our residents.”
Which for Steve, has always been the point.
“I feel like live music is good for anyone at any age,” Steve said. “It just reaches the heart and brings back memories. There’s a couple of songs I do where everybody sings along. It’s heartening.”
An added benefit is meeting residents who remember “Con”.
“A lot of the places I play, they know him,” Steve said. “When I played Andrews of Charlottetown, eight people came up to me and said ‘I knew your father.’ I get to tell the story about dad when I’m performing here. He’s the reason I’m here doing this in the first place.”