The Cold Lake High School band will share the stage with the 4 Wing military band at their spring concert June 7. The students may find inspiration from some of 4 Wing’s accomplished musicians, but they might also want to follow the example of players who have made music a lifetime passion.

Many of the 4 Wing Band’s volunteers are over 50 years old, and some are over 60. And there are one or two who are 70 and older. All of these musicians agree that making music enriches their lives, both creatively and socially.

“It keeps me young,” says Esther Deep, who plays percussion in the band. Esther came to the band as an experienced piano player, and plays the mallet percussion parts (bells, xylophone, marimba) on a keyboard synthesizer. She also plays the smaller percussion instruments as required.

“It definitely exposes me to music I would never have played or even heard of,” she said. “And you go home humming a tune. You forget all your worries for a little while, and you make good friends here.”

Dave Holmberg hadn’t played his saxophone for 48 years, and then about five years ago the St. Paul Arts Foundation started its Rusty Musicians Orchestra. That group lost its steam during the Covid pandemic, but Dave had already begun commuting to Cold Lake from St. Paul for weekly band rehearsals.

“Joining this band has been the best thing for me,” he said. He’s had to “pick up the pace” (as he says) to play at the band’s level, but the other players have been nothing but encouraging. “It’s a good group of people for bringing you along. Everybody mentors everybody,” he says.

None of this is a surprise for trumpet player Walter Boldt, who is a retired music teacher. He said a principal aim of music education should be to instill a lifelong love of playing. “I think that’s where the whole education program should be pointing to,” he said. “Lifelong learning and lifelong playing. There is no end—there is the journey as we go through life. And the community music organizations are the way to go.”

The RCAF’s system of volunteer bands not only provides ceremonial music for military occasions, but as retired Master Corporal Pat Henderson says it is a great social and recreational outlet for the players. 

Pat played euphonium and trombone throughout his military career both in Greenwood, Nova Scotia and in Cold Lake. He worried the 4 Wing band might not be able to pick up where it left off after suspending its activities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Covid killed us for that two and a half or three years. I didn’t pick the horn up, and now I’m still I’m not back to where I was before,” he said. 

When activities resumed, there was a brief worry that the players might not come back. But the feeling,
Pat says, was “we can play together again!” The band’s numbers are as strong as ever.

4 Wing Bandmaster Warrant Officer Sylvain Beyries, says that as far as musicianship goes, age makes no difference. But the older players lead by example in rehearsal whether by observing proper etiquette or picking up on the conductor’s cues and instructions.

“I think their biggest inspiration for the younger generation is that they’re really into it. They are really motivated to make music, and they are so passionate about it,” Beyries said.

The concert is open to the public. Showtime is 7:00 pm Wednesday June 7 at Cold Lake High School, admission is free.

Dave Holmberg, Walter Boldt, Esther Deep, and Pat Henderson enjoy contributing to the 4 Wing Band.  JEFF GAYE