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Seniors enjoy music of St. Therese Brass

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October 21, 2011

By Patricia McGeever

ST. MARGARET MARY DEANERY — On a recent warm fall evening, a couple dozen people gathered in a courtyard at dusk for a concert. Soon, feet were tapping and hands were clapping. In the front row sat Cora Hill, who enthusiastically said, “This was great! I loved it!” when the concert ended.


The music had her hopping in her chair and slapping her knees to every beat. “We used to go every week, Saturday and Sunday, to Moonlight Gardens in the summertime,” she explained. “I loved it. It made you get moving! It was so good.”


Hill uses a walker now. This dance down memory lane came courtesy of St. Therese Brass, a local group that performs many free concerts at area nursing and retirement homes. This particular concert was held at Mercy Franciscan at West Park.


St. Therese Brass is a brass quintet, plus three. It also includes a singer, a drummer and a keyboard player. It was founded by stockbroker and trumpet player Bill Haase. The group takes its name from the Mt. Airy parish named for St. Therese, the Little Flower where Haase is a parishioner.


“I originally wanted to form a brass quintet to perform in church,” said Haase. But he soon realized he didn’t get to play at Mass as often as he’d like. So he changed his focus and traded the sanctuary for the stage. “We have fun. The more we play, the more fun we have. I just like to play.”


St. Therese Brass is a musical ministry with a repertoire that includes Dixieland, jazz, and old standards. It plays everything from “Amazing Grace” to “When the Saints Go Marching In.” When Haase was recruiting musicians for the group, he turned to his patron for help. He wrote to the Sisters at the Monastery of St. Therese in Michigan asking for their prayers to help him find quality performers. They prayed for his intentions and soon he had his group.


Curiously, most of the musicians the Little Flower sent are of other faiths.  


The current roster of talent includes a dentist, an IT consultant at Duke Energy, a consultant for Toyota, a med student, an assistant band director for a school district, a jazz studies major and musicology doctoral student.
Tuba player Jason Lawson works for Duke Energy and is an original member of the group. He enjoys the reaction they get from their audiences.


“It’s an incredible feeling. You feel like you’ve made a positive impact on someone’s life.”


Daniel Pietras, the medical student who plays keyboard, had been looking to join a group like this and auditioned over a cell phone just over a year ago. He says it’s great “to use talents that you wouldn’t normally use for people who normally wouldn’t get to hear them (to get) a smile here or there.”


Andy Randall is the assistant band director for Middletown City Schools. He also plays trumpet and serves as the emcee at the group’s concerts. He sometimes interacts with his audience. “It doesn’t ever feel like we’re working.”
Rounding out the group are Matt McAllister on drums, Dave Southwood on trombone, Rei Mihara on French horn and Amy Lewkowicz as vocalist.  


Performing is not your typical volunteer work. Just as St. Therese had her “little way,” Lewkowicz and Haase say this is their little way of ministering to others. Haase encourages others with musical talents to share them with those confined to nursing homes. He said his group can’t visit them all. He’s found that a lot of people offer to perform during the holidays, but very few are around the rest of the year. “There’s no better audience,” he said.


Back at West Park, the last song of the evening finally brought two residents to their feet. Peter and Anna Guster danced under the stars and both said they “enjoyed it a lot.”


St. Cecilia may be the patron saint of musicians, but St. Therese can strike up the band.

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