A harmonious marriage: Parents of 3 still rock 'n' roll Playing in band on weekends 'keeps you young' NORTH COUNTY--Linthicum * Ferndale * Brooklyn Park * Pumphrey

August 16, 1993|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Staff Writer

The transformation happens on weekends.

That's when George and Pat Bilenki, leave their three children behind in Linthicum and head out the door to jam at area nightclubs with their six-member band, Nightwatch.

"You go from a suit and tie to playing rock 'n' roll at night," said Mr. Bilenki, a project manager for a Baltimore architectural and woodworking company. "It's a great transition. It keeps you young."

The band, which performed a free concert last night in Linthicum Park, will turn 10 years old in the fall.

"I'm around children all week long, so that's my escape from the kids," said Mrs. Bilenki, who baby-sits six school-age children during the school year and two during the summer.

The couple's older children, Jonathan, 17, and Erin, 14, take turns with their grandmother and aunt watching their brother Adam, 8, when mom and dad go out on a band job.

"That's where the guilt comes in, when you have to leave the little guy at home," said Mr. Bilenki, as the family's yellow Labrador retriever, Emily, slept on the dining room floor. "The kids still know how to push the button to make you feel guilty."

Before gigs, the band, which includes a drummer, saxophonist, bass player and keyboard player, practices in the Bilenkis' basement. Both Bilenkis play guitar and sing. The group performs everything from classic rock to rhythm and blues.

Their jam sessions downstairs sometimes brings an "I can't hear the TV upstairs" cry from one of the Bilenki children, the couple joked, so the group tries to wrap up rehearsals in the Bilenki basement by 10 p.m.

A cabinetmaker by trade, Mr. Bilenki plays a guitar he made himself.

Most members of the band, which includes a teacher and a computer programmer, are in their 30s and 40s. Mr. Bilenki is 41. His wife is 40.

Married 21 years, they met in high school when he was a senior and she was a junior. Music brought them together when Mr. Bilenki performed for a high school history class. Shortly after he graduated, they started dating.

Mrs. Bilenki remembers her husband once telling her: "Gee, you know how to harmonize. You know Beatle harmonies. That's great."

The rest, she said, is an old cliche: "We make beautiful music together."

Juggling their responsibilities and their music isn't always easy. Sometimes Mr. Bilenki's job requires travel, and he sometimes has trouble getting home in time for the gigs. When that happens, the band members grab their instruments, pile them into the van and head out the door almost as quickly as Mr. Bilenki comes in.

Playing with the band sometimes keeps the Bilenkis out until 3 a.m., but they try to keep at least one weekend a month open for family activities, they said.

And on some nights when they feel too tired to perform, "you drink a few Cokes, the caffeine goes through your veins and somehow you make it," Mrs. Bilenki said.

But it's all worth the effort, the couple said.

"It's very healing to be able to sing," Mrs. Bilenki said. "There's something about music that heals the soul, that cleanses the soul."

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