If you are like Charlie, you don't have to imagine or just dream about music anymore. There is a band in Santa Barbara that is made up of dozens of Charlies (and Charlenes), and they are happily immersed in music once more.
This special band began in 1995 when J.B. Vander Ark, retired music teacher from La Colina Junior High School, joined with 33 other musicians to form a band comprising active seniors (age 50-plus). Their age and enthusiasm inspired the group's name: Prime Time Band.
The band's appealing vivacity and vision captured the community's attention. A steady stream of new members joined, encompassing the full spectrum of musical talents and skills — from professional musicians to those like Charlie who hadn't touched an instrument in 50 years to those who never played a band instrument before.
The group's first concert was held in December 1995 at La Colina Junior High. About 50 members played in that first performance. It was so well-received that the performance (now titled the Winter Concert) has become an annual community event. Today, Prime Time Band has about 80 members and they play a broad assortment of popular band music, including marches, jazz, show tunes and more. Over the years, they have played hundreds of free concerts throughout the Central Coast — at schools, recreation centers, residential complexes, theaters and countless community events.
A key aim of Prime Time Band is to encourage and help people age 50-plus get back into music or to learn how to play music for the first time. Most members played back in school, but about 20 percent of the band members never played an instrument before.
But, according to Jeffrey Peterson, band director for the past eight years, the Prime Time Band experience is not just about music, and it never has been. The concept goes back more than 20 years to a band instructor in New York who felt that seniors were being pushed aside in modern-day America. His vision was to use music to help seniors reconnect with life, to socialize, to have fun and to gain the sense of accomplishment that comes from playing music.
The original New York group was called the New Horizons Band, and today there are more than 200 such bands across America, Canada and other countries. Santa Barbara's Prime Time was the 13th band to join the movement, and they remain active participants in this international band consortium. One of the special treats is that Prime Time members are welcome to visit other New Horizons bands and sit in with them. Indeed, there are members who plan their vacations expressly to visit and play with other bands around the country.
If this music experience sounds fun and exciting to you, band director Jeffrey Peterson welcomes you to pay a visit on a Tuesday evening, 6:45 to 9 p.m., at La Colina Junior High, hear the band and perhaps even join in the fun. You can learn more at Prime Time's website at www.ptband.org. Or you can contact Toni Straka, band manager, at 962-6983 or email@example.com.
Frank Newton is executive director of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) in Santa Barbara and has worked with seniors in various capacities over the years. His column appears every other week. Opinions expressed in the column are his, and not necessarily those of the newspaper. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.