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Get into the swing of things with a new band

by: WIKI: CREATIVE COMMONS - Whether it's a clarinet (shown here), oboe, French horn or saxophone, you can join the Big Boomer Band in Wilsonville and revamp your music skills.They say the love of music never leaves you once it settles in.

Now, Wilsonville resident Karen Eichelberger wants to find out if that is true once and for all.

With the assistance of the Wilsonville Community Center, Eichelberger will be leading a senior music group for individuals over age 55. She hopes to dedicate the group to instrumental big band music from a bygone era.

Starting with a Feb. 5 open house at 2 p.m. at the community center, Eichelberger will put her plan into effect. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t picked up that saxophone or French horn for years. In fact, that’s exactly the person she is after.

“The focus would not be on performing for an audience,” said Eichelberger, who recently took up the clarinet again after decades in storage. “The niche I’m trying to hit is people kind of like me who used to play, but who haven’t potentially played in years, so they’re really rusty. I used myself as a Guinea pig and I’ve been playing very consistently.”

Eichelberger played the clarinet for eight years when she was younger. And while she quickly recalled how to read music and finger her instrument’s notes, the mouth and facial techniques needed to play properly proved surprisingly difficult to recover.

“I was surprised at how quickly I remembered the notes,” she said. “But I can’t play for 10 minutes before my mouth has about had it. The muscle loss is hard for older people, so we’ll have simple music that’s arranged simply with the goal of getting embouchure (the use of facial muscles) back for brass and woodwind instruments. We’ll keep it low key, low pressure and the goal is to just bring that joy back that you feel when you’re playing. That’s really the goal behind it.”

City of Wilsonville Senior Program Manager Patty Brescia said the new musical outreach has its roots in an older group, the Wilsonville Jam, that fired up several years ago and sputtered out equally quickly.

“We’re just kind of giving her a room and doing some marketing for her,” Brescia said. “We had a Wilsonville Jam senior band a few years ago, but it kind of fizzled out. (Eichelberger) is just trying to think of something that can be done in little band nights at the community center. It totally sounds like fun and it’s another chance for people to get together. They might get out of practice, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to play anymore.”

Even if the new group shares the fate of its predecessor, that’s OK.

“The reality is that it will just form,” Eichelberger said. “In the first meeting, to be honest, I don’t think that more than a couple of people are going to show up, and that’s fine with me because my thought was just letting this form organically.”

Eichelberger moved to Wilsonville a few years ago from Beaverton in preparation for retirement. On the westside of the metro area, she said, there already exist a host of community bands that cater to seniors and other groups of people. She said she found nothing similar after moving.

“There are some great bands in Beaverton or Portland,” she said. “But I don’t want to drive at night for that long of a distance, and that’s what you have to do.”

Things will move slowly at first. There will be the initial Feb. 5 open house to help gauge interest. A second meeting will be held in March. After that, if enough people express interest in joining up, then a more formal schedule could be crafted. If not, then Eichelberger is fine with knowing that she tried.

“Getting together once a week is essential,” she said of a possible rehearsal schedule for the future. “Otherwise we’ll never improve. My commitment is that I’ll show up for the first month and the second meeting in the second month. Then if there’s not enough interest after the second meeting, we’ll shut it down.”

So if you’re interested in dusting off that old trumpet or oboe, there’s no time to waste.



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