Solana Beach pianist wants to bring holiday cheer to assisted living facilities

(Front row) Paul and Nona Sims with family members.

A Solana Beach pianist is looking for opportunities to spread some holiday cheer to local dementia patients.

“It’s something I can give back,” said Paul Sims, 92, whose wife Nona was diagnosed with dementia about five years ago. “I have a good talent and I’ve been fortunate.”

Sims has played piano at retirement communities and in front of dementia patients at multiple assisted living facilities in North County. He said he hopes to schedule three to four holiday-themed performances per week between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Nona, also 92, moved into an assisted living facility in Encinitas following her diagnosis. Paul, who visits her every day, has been able to use his music to stay connected to her and entertain other dementia patients.

“Every time I play there or any other place, they all either tap their feet or sing along,” he said.

He added that he plays games with his audiences designed to jog their memories, such as asking them about characters from the “Wizard of Oz.”

Paul and Nona moved to Solana Beach 43 years ago from Connecticut, where they lived while he worked for a New York City advertising agency, servicing accounts such as Maxwell House and Lever Brothers. The two first met at a cocktail party in Washington, D.C., while Paul was serving in the military during the Korean War. They went on their first date a couple weeks later, and married about 20 months after that. Almost 60 years later, they have seven children (including a daughter who died recently), nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Over several decades living in San Diego, Paul has played piano at hotels, restaurants, country clubs, yacht clubs and four Nordstrom locations. He first learned to play when he was 8. Among his many accomplishments as a composer, he studied classical piano, led a 17-piece dance band while attending Tufts University, and served as choir director and organist at St. Jerome’s Parish in Norwalk, Connecticut.

“Wherever I’ve been, music has been a part of my life,” he said.

Paul invites any venues interested in booking him for 45-minute to one-hour piano performances to call him at 858-755-5997.