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Features


Burlington jam session attracts mix of musicians

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Published:

Story by Jill Tatge-Rozell

These guys and dolls still rock — and it’s not in a chair on their front porch.

For 2 1/2 hours every third Wednesday of the month, a group of about 11 “seasoned” musicians shake things up at the Burlington Senior Center, where the audience puts down their playing cards to do the polka or sing along.

“It doesn’t really matter what age you are — music just wakes something up in you,” said Mary Tenant, 69. “It triggers something in your mind and stirs emotions.”

Tenant sings and plays the tambourine at the Senior Jam Session. Her husband Tom, 71, adds to the vocals and plays guitar. The number of musicians varies each month.

Joy Smith, 61, who has been playing piano since age 4 and was a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 12, is one of the group’s snow birds, and session organizer Gladys Bublitz said the group looks forward to her return each year.

Like Smith, many who attend the session have played professionally during their younger years. Rolf “Poncho” Hartman, 81, of Burlington, is one of several who play the accordion, and Verle Swenson, 89, of Camp Lake, brings his mandolin. Hartman is well known as a former member of the Bavarians group that played at White Oaks Restaurant in the late 1950s.

Bob Albrecht, 78, said the jam session also fills what otherwise would be a void in his life. Albrecht was part of the Merry Muggs comedy quartet that performed at weddings and banquets for 43 years.

“When we disbanded, it did leave a void,” he said. “Then this cropped up. I love to see the joy it brings to people. Some get up and dance.”

Albrecht, who retired from Johnson Wax in 1986, has been jammin’ at the senior center for three years. He sings and adds to the rhythm section with his electric tenor ukulele.

“Music takes you away from the stress of daily life and lifts people’s spirits,” Albrecht, of Racine, said. “Songs can bring you back to a moment in time and bring back fond memories.”

Songs like “Five Foot Two,” and “Ain’t She Sweet,” come to mind for Albrecht, when he thinks about times gone by.

The Tenants, who live in Waterford, were in a band together 25 years ago. They still perform as a country music duet at area senior living centers. Mary said they like playing different genres of music at the jam session.

“It’s fun to get together with other musicians and enjoy their type of music,” Mary said. “It’s a talented group.”

It’s also a group that is hoping to attract more musicians. Bublitz said anyone who can sing or play an instrument is welcome to join in.

“It is a way for them to do something they enjoy and share their love of music with others,” Bublitz said. “Once they get here and see how much happiness it brings people, they can’t wait to come back.”

Senior Jam Session

What: A chance to get together with area musicians and make music

Where: Burlington Senior Center, 201 N. Main Street

When: 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. the third Wednesday of the month