Bradenton band members share group's rich musical background

vmannix@bradenton.comJanuary 6, 2013 

SARASOTA

The sanctuary at Northminster Presbyterian Church reverberated with the sounds of music Friday morning.

Not the usual praise and worship, mind you.

Try Sousa, Mancini and Gilbert-and-Sullivan.

The Suncoast Concert Band was back from the holiday break, practicing for the first time in 2013 -- its 80th anniversary season -- and nearly all of its 55 musicians were on hand, raring to go in the new church.

Band director Bob Stoll knew they would be.

Like himself, a music educator for 34 years from New Vernon, N.J., they're mostly seniors -- average age 74 -- whose music keeps them young.

"It keeps them going," said Stoll, 68. "It's a social function. It's a healthy function. It gets them out of the house. They just enjoy playing."

That includes the 20 band members from Manatee County.

"You want to be here," said trombonist Becky Guth, 58, a Hilliard, Ohio, native. "This band is family."

"Attendance has never been an issue," said alto sax Jim Stoltie, 75, a from Galesburg, Ill. "Everyone shows up."

Including clarinetist Jim Boisy.

He's 97!

"It takes an effort to get here, but it's fun," said the 30-year band member from Boston.

Founded in 1932 as the Tin Can Tourists in Arcadia, the Suncoast Concert Band performs two Sundays monthly from November to May, playing show tunes, classical, religious, patriotic and more at Sarasota's Church of the Palms as well as Northminster, which hosts the next concert 3 p.m., Jan. 13.

It also contains a jazz ensemble, the Suncoast Jazz Ambassadors, which plays big band and Dixieland.

"Excellent music that suits almost everybody," said trumpeter John Brady, 80, who personifies the band's richly varied backgrounds.

Tuba player Tom Bleakley practiced law for 40 years.

Tuba player Eric Guth, Becky's husband, was a tool-and-die maker 30 years with General Motors.

John Brady? He was a poor Irish lad who rented a trumpet because he couldn't afford to buy one.

"I listened to various American artists like Louis Armstrong and I thought, why that trumpet sounds good to me," said the County Monaghan native. "I walked into a music store in Dublin but had no money. So I eventually rented one -- an old beat-up thing -- and took lessons from a piano teacher. I joined a post office workers band, which was small and good and from there I taught myself."

After emigrating in 1955, Brady joined the Army and its band -- "I played taps at funerals." -- then worked in New York City, including 20 years as a police dispatcher, playing in concert bands, too.

He has been with the Suncoast Concert Band for 10 years.

"This band is one of the better ones I've been in," Brady said. "Most are retired, some are professionals, some are like myself, who gave up the instrument for 30 years then got back into it."

Tom Bleakley, 72, has played tuba since fifth grade, yet acknowledges the wealth of talent around him.

"The level of this band is higher than most community bands," said the Detroit native. "It's a challenge to play music a little bit more difficult than easy."

Three rehearsals and a twice-monthly concert works for Eric Guth, 59, who played one year with the Ohio State Marching Band.

"The fact we have such a turnover in music and it's fast-paced, I like that -- and the performing," said the Reynoldsburg, Ohio, native.

IF YOU GO

What: Suncoast Concert Band

When: Jan. 13

Where: Northminster Presbyterian Church, 3131 61st St., Sarasota

When: Jan. 27

Where: Church of the Palms, 3224 Bee Ridge Rd., Sarasota.

Information: Visit www.suncoastconcertband.org or call 941-907-0935

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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