Gold Country Senior Band brings music to the people

By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal features editor
-A +A
The first (and basically only) rule about the Gold Country Senior Band is this: you’ve gotta love music. It doesn’t really matter how old you are, or what instrument you play, or how long it’s been since you might have picked up that instrument — you’ve just got to have a place in your heart for music. “We aren’t very good but we have fun,” said Robbie Simon, scheduler and secretary/treasurer for the Auburn-based band. “We want anyone with an instrument to join us.” Simon, 72, has been playing clarinet with the Gold Country Senior Band for five years. She joined the band after picking up the clarinet after a 40-year hiatus. “I’ve just learned so much,” she said. “You learn by doing, and every week I’m doing.” The Gold Country Senior Band practices from 10-11:30 a.m. one Monday a month at a Placer School for Adults classroom (room 324 A) in the DeWitt Center, at First Street and F Avenue in Auburn. Any other Monday, you can find them performing during that same time frame at local retirement and assisted-living homes in Auburn and beyond. The band has about 40 members, and some 30 members participate in any given show, Simon said. Members tend to range in age from their 50s on up, and come from Auburn and the surrounding areas, some as far as Foresthill, Grass Valley and Yuba City, Simon said. “It’s just mostly by word of mouth, or someone will see us or hear us and wonder, can I come in?” Simon said. “Anyone who loves music and loves to play music, we’d love to have them. If you can keep up, you can stay with us.” The band’s set list changes monthly to reflect seasonal favorites. The tunes are typically classics of yesteryear. “We like to play music that the audience we’re playing for will appreciate and enjoy,” Simon said. This month’s song list includes Oktoberfest-friendly polka tunes and fall favorites. Patriotic songs are a given on any month, Simon said. Performing for Placer County’s aging population is quite rewarding, Simon said. “I like the people. That is what keeps me going,” she said. “It’s nice to put a little bit of joy into other people’s lives. That’s what I like the most — bringing a little sunshine into their lives.” Auburnite Brian Hassett has been with the Gold Country Senior Band for about eight years. He’s a percussionist who loves to sing — if you happen to catch one of the band’s October performances, keep an ear out for his rendition of “Old Devil Moon.” “I really enjoy all these old standards,” Hassett said. “It’s a wonderful repertoire.” Hassett has been singing since childhood. “Like most of the members, I’m dusting off my old skills,” he said. “It’s important to keep working on things, to keep learning.” Hassett started taking voice lessons following a heart attack in 2000. “Singing is good for the heart,” he said. “It relaxes. It’s a positive outlet of your voice.” Reach Loryll Nicolaisen at lorylln