Getting together, ready to rock
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
SILT, Colorado ” June Cross isn’t quite sure how to explain the feeling of making music. It’s obvious, though, that she’s in love with it.
“Music is just something everyone can enjoy,” she said. “I don’t know. It just makes you feel good.”
That kind of thing is too good not to share.
For the last few years, Cross has been the driving force behind the Senior Jam, a monthly evening of playing and appreciating live music, now at the firehouse in Silt. A banjo, mandolin and guitar player herself, the 69-year-old modeled this little get-together after one she saw in Why, Ariz. There, the jam was huge, going on every week. While this one is surely smaller, it doesn’t seem like she’s any less excited about it. She notices a true community spirit in the air as people take turns playing and the group tries their hand at spontaneous backup. Everyone, she thinks, has a good time, even if they’re just sitting and watching. When she looks out on a sea of smiling seniors, that’s when she knows she’s done a great job.
And does she want more people to stop on by?
“Oh, yes, we’d love it,” she said.
The ever-changing roster of attendees, in fact, is what gives this night its unique flavor.
Along with Cross’ son, David, Barry Andersen, 52, is one of a few non-seniors in the bunch. It’s not as if he doesn’t notice, either.
“It’s kind of funny,” said the New Castle fellow, in a joking tone. “I play music that’s only 30 years old, and they play music that’s older than that.”
Somehow, though, he thinks it all meshes. He remembered those first few jams, when he was nervous and tentative, guitar in-hand. Everyone was so “cool and nice,” however, that soon he fit right in, he said. He likes knowing that his acoustic stew of Neil Young, John Denver and other folksy stuff is going out to a group who truly wants to hear it.
“I think the people who come to listen enjoy it too,” he said. “It gives them a good feeling for the night.”
Adding a few notes of bluegrass to that feeling are husband and wife duo, Leonard and Ruby Mennick. At 68 and 65 respectively, the couple has actually done all the performing they can in the last few years. She sings, while he plays guitar, banjo and upright bass ” and they’ve brought their gospel-tinged tunes as far as Grand Junction. It’s fun, Ruby explained, to mingle with people during the breaks and play together as one big group. She likes taking requests from the audience, even when she can’t always play them. Just that interaction itself is nice.
“I think more communities ought to have something like that,” she said.
And why in the world not? Especially when characters like singer Bessie Burr show up.
At 76, Burr is one of those live wire people, and it sounds as though she hardly ever misses a jam. Though she already performs all around the valley with her own group, Bessie and Friends, she’s not one to give up any opportunity to play for anyone. At this event, she knows that she and her fellow players are creating something important.
“We feel loved,” she said. “We feel like we’re giving of ourselves, because that’s what we’re doing.”
It’s exciting, too, to step into a world where people don’t want to hear any of that new fangled country music. They want Hank Williams. They want Patsy Cline. Even though, in her words, the audience might not “jump as high” or “run as fast” as they used to, they can still boogie down in their own way. Many do those old waltzes and two-step dances she grew up with, and even those who can’t get up usually move their feet to the songs. In that way, she knows everyone feels the same warmth she does.
“It’s so much fun, and there’s a lot of music in our blood,” she said. “Or we wouldn’t be doing it.”
And what a loss would that be.
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