HINSDALE – A week before piloting his first Senior Jam Session at The Community House, Don Moritz sat at his kitchen table, mulling the logistics of the impromptu musical get together.
While the Hinsdale resident has laid plans to rock out in The Community House space on the third Thursday of every month, he wonders if other seniors will support his musical endeavors.
“It could be one [person] who shows up, I don’t know,” Moritz said. “The First challenge is getting the people to come there and play.”
Moritz, 87, grew up playing musical instruments, learning to play the piano under the didactic instruction of a nun. He later learned to love the accordion, partaking in several formal and impromptu bands.
But the question that currently wracks his brain is, “Where are we going to play?”
“That’s the real question is ‘where’?” Moritz said.
While many seniors can play an instrument and have a passion for music, there are few places to showcase their talent or play with other older musicians, Moritz said, explaining local bars and venues cater to a younger crowd.
As a result, Moritz and Brian Hopkins of Hinsdale, longtime friends who played music together, discussed forming a Senior Jam Session at The Community House for individuals who enjoy playing but lack the opportunity.
“The jam session can be anything from something fun to something horrible, and believe me I’ve been to both,” Moritz said with a laugh.
The most difficult part of organizing something like this is communication, Moritz said, explaining the challenges of coordinating around varying schedules.
“To try to reach these people – it’s basically by word of mouth,” he said. “How the hell do you reach somebody who’s sitting there looking out the window and [another person] walking his dog? It’s just impossible.
“So we have to get somebody to tell somebody, ‘Hey, there’s something happening.’ ”
Hopkins, the string man, also has a passion for music, and is proficient on the guitar, ukulele, banjo and the mandolin. He’s currently building his own mandolin.
“I had the blueprints and was able to buy some wood that was over 100-years-old to start with,” Hopkins said. “It’s almost finished, I’ve just got to put the back on.”
The 72-year-old was looking forward to debuting his instruments during upcoming Senior Jam Sessions.
“I just want everybody to have fun, that’s the most important point,” he said.
Moritz and Hopkins welcome all musicians and vocalists to the jam session, which features songs from the “Great American Songbook,” the musicians’ colloquial term for music from the 1930s to the ’50s.
A majority of the songs the jam band will perform will be a selection tied to old Broadway musicals.
The group welcomes all senior musicians, regardless of experience.
“All I know is we’re going to provide a very fluid atmosphere, provide the venue and a place to go every third Thursday of the month,” he said.
Time to jam
It was difficult to find a spot in the first Senior Sam Session on April 17, as 11 older adults with a variety of instruments packed The Community House.
With childlike energy and enthusiasm, the group ran through two hours worth of songs, intermingled with solos. A few fans even looked on through the windows and doorway.
In between songs, the musicians shared stories, a few revealing that this was their first time playing in a group.
"This is the first time we've played any of these songs and I think they're coming out great," Hopkins said, who was co-leading the group with Moritz.
Moritz and Hopkins were thrilled with the first session and are looking forward to more to come.
"Music is just so important as it brings out so much," he said. "It puts so much in your life."