Music lovers gather as Lowcountry Community Concert Band

abredeson@islandpacket.comFebruary 4, 2013 

  • The University of South Carolina Beaufort's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offers educational opportunities to adults who are age 50 and older. Although the program is designed for the 50-plus crowd, anyone is welcome to join. Cost is $40 a year. OLLI's 60-piece concert band, the Lowcountry Community Concert Band plans to perform four times a year. Details: www.uscb.edu/community-outreach/olli

A group of musicians gather on a Tuesday night in a classroom in greater Bluffton. It's a casual atmosphere -- some wearing shorts and T-shirts, others still in their work attire.

In between pieces, there is laughter and, conveniently, a drum roll.

You can't help but tap your toes to the beat and watch in awe as the director leads the band, arms waving up and down, left to right.

After a three-month hiatus, the Lowcountry Community Concert Band is back at it, rehearsing for its next performance.

The group of music lovers meets once a week at the University of South Carolina Beaufort's Hilton Head Gateway Campus.

The band is sponsored by USCB's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a program that offers educational opportunities to the 50-plus crowd.

And though OLLI is geared toward adults 50 and older, director Andrea Sisino said the program is open to anyone, regardless of age.

Sisino said OLLI started the band less than a year ago, when members suggested the idea. She said the only requirement was it had to have an educational component.

"It's about improving their skill sets as a musician," Sisino said, adding that if someone needs coaching, they'll get it from other musicians. She said the band offers OLLI members an opportunity to continue honing their music skills and to share their talents.

Sisino said OLLI was looking for a volunteer director when Donald Jemella came out of the woodwork. Originally from the Boston area, Jemella attended the Boston Conservatory, where he earned bachelor's and master's degrees in music education. He taught for 12 years and then moved into a totally different field -- financial services. But he said he stayed active in music all along.

Jemella said when he moved to South Carolina several years ago, he noticed there were orchestras, choruses and jazz bands, but no concert bands.

"I was actually looking to form a community band, and at the same time OLLI and the University of South Carolina Beaufort were looking for a music director to start one," he said.

Jemella said he can't believe how much progress the band has made in less than a year.

"We have some tremendous musicians," he said.

Jemella said band members travel from Hilton Head Island, Savannah, Bluffton, Beaufort and Dataw Island. Most are 50 years or older, but some are in their 20s or 30s. Some are retired music educators. Some have been playing their whole lives, and some haven't picked up an instrument in 30 years.

The band plays patriotic music, movie scores and Broadway tunes. They have performed at Bluffton United Methodist Church, St. John's Lutheran Church on Lady's Island, on Dataw Island, at TidePointe, and at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Hilton Head.

Sisino said the band would like to perform four times a year -- in the spring, on Memorial Day, on Veterans Day and during the holiday season.

"In a short amount of time we have made absolutely amazing progress in becoming a really fine music ensemble," Jemella said.

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