The Pettet Sisters: Bringing the Healing Power of Music to American Communities

By on March 5, 2016

By Vanessa Sheets−

Kristen and Ashley Pettet sang the national anthem at the New York Mets game last season, just before the team made it to the Major League Baseball World Series. The professional entertainers and sisters performed at the White House during the Clinton administration. Ashley was cast in “Annie Warbucks” on Broadway and “The Sound of Music” with Marie Osmond while Kristen performed in Woody Allen’s first musical “Everyone Says I Love You” alongside Drew Barrymore.

But nothing compares to the time they performed their Christmas show at the Regional Veterans Post. Playing songs from a different era of American music, Ashley and Kristen reminded veterans of what it was like to be overseas, longing to be home for the holidays. After the show, the sisters were surprised when a group of veterans joined them on stage and presented them with a Commendation Medal, a special honor reserved for acts of heroism or meritorious service.

“It was a big compliment,” Kristen said about receiving the award and added that one veteran, in particular, stood out from the show. “He told us our performance brought back great memories. He said we were an inspiration.”

Vanessa Sheets The Pettit Sisters photo2It was an honor that Ashley and Kristen will never forget. They later learned the veteran passed away shortly after they met him.

After their distinguished careers in music on Broadway, national tours, movies, videos, commercials, radio, and television, Ashley and Kristen started their performance company 12 years ago. Both women found their passion performing for veterans and older adults, celebrating their contributions and unique stories.

The Pettet sisters write, create, and produce their variety shows, which feature singing American music, tap dancing, and skipping. They record solo CDs and have a Christmas album, with new recording projects in the works. And their heart for veterans and seniors and their unique stories comes out in their performances.

“Music plays a significant role in healing,” Ashley said. “We’ve seen it by connecting with our audience- music has a therapeutic aspect.”

Research shows many promising benefits of music in healing and cognition. Music therapy can reduce stress, help reconnect neurological pathways after a stroke and in Parkinson’s disease patients, boost immune system function, and improve relationships through better connection with loved ones.

Music from a loved one’s teens and 20s often encourages the most engagement.

“When we incorporate songs from the World War II era, we hear how our show brings back memories for veterans and other older adults,” Ashley said.

The Pettets love hearing stories from their audience and are passionate about bridging the gap between generations by sharing their experiences told to them at their shows. They feature an entire series on their website to connect older women and men with younger generations.

“We’ve performed in senior centers and met women in the audience that have started new careers while others tell us about how they are giving back to their communities by volunteering. It’s very inspiring,” Kristen said.

Vanessa Sheets Pettit Sisters photo3The Pettets are a family affair, with their mom Denise as their manager, who also helps write their shows and design their costumes.

“Our mom owned a nursery school when we were young,” Ashley said. “And when I knew I wanted to perform, she would make time to take me on auditions. When I got the part in ‘Annie’ on Broadway, she brought my sister to tour with us. It was a big commitment for our mom.”

Coming full circle, Ashley’s son Todd performs in their shows too, playing a 14-year-old version of Frank Sinatra. Kristen and Ashley credit their parents for exposing them to different music while growing up in New Jersey. They remember singing to Mr. Sandman as kids, dancing in their living room. Their mother was the choir director at their church, and the sisters sang in church together.

As Ashley continued to perform and Kristen joined her, the two young women knew they wanted to sing together. Kristen’s love for stories inspired her degree in broadcast journalism while Ashley went to graduate school for her master’s degree in music business. They decided to produce their variety show as a way to continue performing while incorporating their creativity.

Their vision to motivate and inspire through music quickly found a niche in performing positive, quality entertainment for older adults and veterans.

Continuing to bridge the gap between generations, the Pettets also play for youth programs to help encourage young women to pursue their dreams. Ashley and Kristen both find meaning in helping young women through their music.

“I try to share the message that anything you have a passion for, you can find a way to make it a reality,” Ashley said.

Music therapy has been used as a beneficial tool in health and wellness for centuries, and the Pettet sisters have tapped into the ability to help veterans and older adults heal through quality entertainment. Find out more about the Pettets and their upcoming tours by visiting their website.

 

Vanessa Sheets is a freelance journalist whose articles on health, fitness, and nutrition have appeared in print and online magazines and business websites. You can view her online portfolio at vanessasheets.contently.com.

Vanessa Sheets

About Vanessa Sheets

Vanessa Sheets is a freelance journalist who specializes in fitness, health, and nutrition. She has written for True North, Natural Child, Newport Health, and Greenmaple Wellness and worked in public health as a community educator for a non-profit. She lives in Bend, Oregon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Pettet Sisters: Bringing the Healing Power of Music to American Communities