And that’s the mantra of St. Louis OASIS’ Concert Band, says Roger Gennari, tenor sax player.
Gennari, member of the OASIS band since 2001, opened the band’s holiday and final performance of 2012 with a welcome message and a little history about the band’s origin.
“Our band was originally started as a New Horizons Band,” Gennari says. The new Horizons Band movement, he said, was started in 1991 by a professor of music, Dr. Roy Ernst, at University of Rochester, NY. “Ernst wanted to provide a chance for senior citizens, 55+, to play music in a band if they so wished. He did not care if they knew how to play or even could read music. He wanted to give them a chance to learn and play.”
Gennari, along with the 30 members of the OASIS band have been doing just that in the St. Louis area. The band has been performing since its inception to audiences several times a year. “This band is blessed,” Gennari says, “with many nice things, such as Mike Hoyer, a dedicated band leader who loves to see his students grow. We’ve got a good sprinkling of retired music teachers who once knew how to play and teach and are at it again, for no pay.”
The OASIS band operates under the auspices of OASIS, but they still carry the motto of the New Horizons band movement, Gennari says … your best is good enough.
“When I started,” Gennari said, “I had no band experience and had started with music lessons, since I had never played an instrument before. I could barely read music.”
His first band experience was a bit traumatic, Gennari remembers. “I did not know much about music much less playing in a band. I remember sitting there with my sax in my lap and Mike Hoyer handing me some music that they were about to play. I panicked!” The music looked so hard and complex, he said. “But before I knew it, Mike said to the band, ‘Okay, let's start. 1,2, 1,2,3,4!’ and everybody started playing ... except me!”
Finally, Gennari said, he picked up his sax and started guessing about where the band was and played some notes. “It was a trying two hours but the people around me were so friendly and understanding and helpful,” he said.
Gennari noted that when New Horizons was formed, Ernst said that if they gave concerts, probably no one would come …but he was proved wrong. Attendance at OASIS concerts also proved him wrong, Gennari said. Such proof was the band’s 2012 holiday performance which drew over 100 attendees.
“When we play a concert,” says Gennari, “I usually have a moment of enlightenment when I realize, at 72, I am really sitting in the middle of a real band playing real music with real people listening. These are very special moments.”
The group is a very unique one of would-be band musicians, Gennari says. “You have to be 55 or over to be a member, you have to have a musical instrument or at least WANT to have one and want to play something,” he says. “And, as Woody Allen put it so well, you have to show up!”
And they all show up, for two hours every Monday morning, at Crown Center where the band practices. Give senior adults a chance to learn and play music in an accepting and noncompetitive atmosphere, Gennari says, and they will produce and enjoy themselves. “We do just that.