COVID-19 or not, life goes on, and so does the band.
This is the story of the Heritage Lake retirement community in New Port Richey, where Chuck Schlaich and his Dixieland Garage Band performed semi-regular concerts for cheering crowds lining the sidewalks and dead end street in front of the resident’s home. Pat Roguz.
The idea was born during the worst of pandemic lockdowns as a way to provide entertainment and a break from worry and isolation in the summer, said Roguz, who spoke with his friend Schlaich to play la live music for the neighbors.
Schlaich went further, bringing in other musicians, and it wasn’t long before a group came together to put on top-notch free gigs in the safety of the outdoors with mask-wearing and the distancing practiced.
Schlaich plays keyboard and xylophone, while Wayne Pearson is on clarinet and saxophone. Paul Hafer is on bass. Eddie Graham is the drummer.
All are seniors except Hafer, who is the “baby of the group”. The rest are longtime pros who have played around the world. Graham played percussion for Elvis Presley for a few years, as well as with jazz pianist Earl Hines.
Schlaich said he thought it would be nice to entertain music fans, but admits musicians have to play, because it’s “just in our blood”. Since players have been pushed away from their usual local sites, Roguz’s Garage is a place to play.
“For us, it doesn’t matter where we play, we just need to play,” said Pearson, whose gig regular was playing at Olive The World Bistro in Tarpon Springs before the virus descended. “We don’t all play as much now, and it’s a good way to come together.”
Drummer Graham, who at 83 is still tapping into the skin as a teenager, thinks neighborhood gigs are great for the mostly older audience who feel safer with outside entertainment, but also up the ante. player morale.
“It’s about learning to play music,” he said. “Music is my life; I can’t stop the music.
Linda Benton lives a few blocks away and says she loves the band coming to the neighborhood. A performance held on Saturday was the fifth she had attended.
“It’s great because of all the things we can’t do right now,” she said. “We can’t go out to a club anymore, but with this we can listen to music outside, get together and see the neighbours.”
Liz Conlan lives next door to Roguz and never misses a show.
“It’s so nice of them (the band members) to do this,” she said. “It’s something that everyone really appreciates.”
Laura Arnold, a counselor who works with carers caring for family members with dementia, said the concerts are perfect for those who need a break from the demands of life, as well as for members of her all-girl social group, Friends for Fun, who like many groups in this troubled year are struggling to find fun.