Renaissance Man at The Merion

Twenty-one year old Sean van Dril is a bit of a Renaissance man…equally right brain and left-brain accomplished. He is also a familiar and much beloved face at The Merion. The student at Northwestern University shares his right-brain talents as he heads the Sean van Dril Trio at live musical events at The Merion. His analytical left-brain shines through as a mechanical engineering student, who devised a piece of equipment to help the mobility of seniors.


A talented jazz pianist, Sean relishes the opportunity to perform before the enthusiastic residents and guests who make up the audience at The Merion. “Audiences are so important to a performance. Trios are often times intended to be background music, so we end up being a glorified stereo. But at The Merion, we create a special atmosphere and ambience. The music we play is so appreciated by the residents. Often times, they’ll come up afterwards and ask or reminisce about the song we just played. It’s very rewarding that they’re paying so much attention,” he said.


As an engineering major, Sean is taking a user-centered design course, requiring the development of a device that will help people overcome a challenge. Sean’s group designed a product to help individuals with mobility issues, get in and out of cars safely. His team developed prototypes of two handles: one that attached to the window frame of the car door, and another that dangled from the roof. The team came to The Merion and had residents try-out and assess the efficacy and ease of use of the products. The students conferred at great length with the residents including one gentleman who was a retired engineer. “It was really enlightening to talk with him because he understood our ideas and principles on a different level than some of the other users. He really liked the interaction with a topic in which he was so well versed,” said Sean.


Over the course of his multiple visits to The Merion, Sean said he’s been able to develop relationships with the residents. This is especially gratifying to him, as he doesn’t have many interactions with other seniors. “Older folks are just wise. Inevitably the conversations I have with residents have included them telling stories. A lot of the music I play will remind them of where they were or what they were doing when they first heard it. Incredible stories,” he said. “No other generation has experiences and stories like this to share.”


The Merion is a luxury senior living community for active, independent retirees seeking a hassle-free rental home in Evanston. The Merion has been totally renovated with upscale finishes and amenities and is the preferred senior living community of Northwestern University Athletics.

As Seen in The Chicago Tribune