WILMONT — The layered sound of orchestral music fills the dark corridors of Lincoln Middle School on a recent weekday afternoon, long after all the youngsters have gone home for the day.
The auditorium is filled with another group of students, those who have long since married and had kids of their own. They are the students of Santa Monica College’s Emeritus College Band, a creation of World War II veteran Wallace Umber, who founded the ensemble in 1968 at the Venice Adult School.
Even back then the school teacher and band director knew he had created something special.
“[The band] gives purpose and direction to some people who would just be wandering aimlessly,” said Mike Corrigan, the current Emeritus Band director.
The 60-person wind ensemble is open to anyone, but caters primarily to seniors and community members who have a genuine desire to perform music.
The band has a wide range of ages — the oldest member being 94 — and skill levels, with many members having prior professional music experience.
“Most of the people in the band have been playing for a long time,” said trumpet player Craig Peterson, who has 60 years of trumpet experience.
Peterson, who has performed with his wife and son in previous concerts, believes that music is powerful, saying, “music brings us together.”
Take Jon Moryl, 58, and Steve Kriger, 60. The two first met when they played for their high school band in 1970. Over 40 years later they’ve found themselves sitting next to each other once again during rehearsals.
“It’s like we’re 17 years old again,” Kriger said.
Moryl, who works at an automotive repair shop, cherishes the stress relief found once a week at rehearsals. “I realized I’m happiest playing music,” he said. “It’s my therapy.”
The Emeritus Band performs three concerts a year, and has a winter concert scheduled this Sunday at the Broad Stage at 3 p.m. This concert is one of the few events at the Broad Stage where parking and admission is free.
The band will be playing a variety of older and contemporary pieces, sampling from the works of Benny Goodman to “Porgy and Bess,” and “West Side Story.”
Performing in the orchestra lends validation to many seniors’ lives, and allows community musicians to showcase musical talent that would otherwise remain hidden from the world.
“As an educator it excites me to know whoever had these people as students in high school instilled that joy of music in them,” Corrigan said. “I Hope I can do that with some of my students.”
If you go
The Broad Stage
1310 11th St.
Santa Monica, Calif.