Goldenaires musical group to celebrate a decade of striking up the band

April 13, 1994|By Dolly Merritt | Dolly Merritt,Special To The Sun

There's a whole lot of swingin' every Wednesday afternoon when the Goldenaires senior band rehearses at the Florence Bain Senior Center in Columbia.

Among the half-dozen listeners last week -- all Florence Bain regulars who enjoy a good tune when they hear it -- were Ralph Rich, a 75-year-old West Friendship resident, and Elsie Waters, 73, who lives in Columbia.

They not only listened, but glided across the tile floor of the conference room where the band was rehearsing, dancing to nearly every old favorite.

"I love to dance," said Mrs. Waters. "I'm trying to play the drums too," she added -- even taking a turn banging on the band's drum kit.

Today, the Goldenaires group officially celebrates its 10th anniversary at a Florence Bain event that will feature music for dancing and listening and a sing-a-long. Because of the severe winter weather this year, the celebration was planned for April.

The group traces its roots to February 1984 when Dorothy Faustman, now 82, started meeting once a week with three other people to play music.

She had read a notice from the Florence Bain Senior Center advertising the organization of a band that would provide volunteer musical entertainment, primarily for functions at the center.

Having played piano since she was 7 years old, Mrs. Faustman was interested.

"I decided that I'd like to try and that's what I did," she said.

The group soon increased to six, and even larger, as ads appeared in the senior center newsletter seeking "competent musicians."

"As we grew in size and developed our music, we received many other requests to do volunteer performances," Mrs. Faustman said.

The Goldenaires have performed for free at various events, including those sponsored by the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks, the Mall in Columbia, Owen Brown Place and the Harmony Hall retirement community.

During the first four years of the band's existence, Mrs. Faustman was pianist and director.

Since 1993, Fred Petrogallo, a 69-year-old guitarist who has been playing "off and on since 1935" and a member of the group for four years, has been the director.

"We have open rehearsals every Wednesday at Florence Bain and people are invited to come and listen," said Mr. Petrogallo, a Columbia resident.

Visitors from the Wintergrowth Senior Day Care Center, next door to Florence Bain, are Goldenaire fans who dance and listen most Wednesdays to the band's repertoire of about 400 tunes.

"We play old numbers that have stood the test of time," Mrs. Faustman said.

"We would like to think that we sound like the Glenn Miller band."

The lineup includes string, brass, reed and percussion instruments, plus a harmonica, accordion and piano-keyboard, all of which lets the group do some complex orchestration.

Adding vocal expertise to the swing sound are band singers Marie McLellan and Bill Harding, both Ellicott City residents.

Mr. Harding, 74, said he spent a small portion of his life as a radio announcer in Frederick and is the Goldenaire's emcee.

Ms. McLellan, a British native who refused to tell her age, sang professionally when she lived in Europe.

"My involvement with the Goldenaires is one of the most enriching experiences I have had since I retired from the Baltimore City school system," said De etta Mullen, an original member of the band.

The 75-year-old former elementary school music teacher, who plays the accordion, said she has watched the growth of the group through the years and is delighted with its musical expertise.

"It's like being in a family," said Claire Spohn, who has been a member for seven years.

The Columbia resident, who would not specify her age, plays the piano and electronic keyboard and described the group as "very caring."

"Playing music is creative," said Mrs. Faustman.

"Every time I play a piece it's different and it's stimulating. I am excited about my life."

She believes the other musicians feel the same.

"We are not sitting-around-in-rocking-chair-people," she said. "Music keeps us young."

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