RAYMORE, Mo. — These five men in Raymore, Missouri are quite the “boy” band. But not the type you might expect.
This group of guys is a bit more “seasoned” than most “boy bands,” but when it comes to music, they don’t really act their age.
“Never, never did I ever think that at the age of 92 I’d be playing in a band like this,” said Foxwood Brass founder Howard McHenry.
Yes, the 92-year-old founder. When Howard and his wife moved into Raymore senior living center Foxwood Springs, they noticed something.
“You could walk the halls, have lunch with people, you could tell they need something to motivate them.”
So, the former Harrisonville mayor and auto dealer put out the call. Any other residents who just happened to also be musically talented? Howard plays the trombone and figured he could put together a Dixieland Jazz band if the pieces came together.
Turns out he wasn’t alone. 94-year-old Bob Blackman plays the trumpet and jumped on board. He understood the need for music. As an Army Prisoner of War guard stationed in Italy, he was asked to form a band with German POW’s, in a bid to boost morale.
“We played a mess hall concert every day,” he remembers. “It made the beans taste a little better.”
Another World War II veteran, Conan Castle, also played the trombone and is the group’s oldest member at 95.
Later, when Dan Fitzgerald moved in with years of banjo playing experience, he joined in, and along with tuba player Kent Summers, make up the rhythm section.
Each of the members with past musical experience, from teaching to performing, and now fast friends eager to entertain.
“We see joy when we play,” says Blackman. “We see toes tapping. We see singing.”
They experience that joy on the last Thursday of each month when they host a regular concert of Dixieland jazz favorites. The activity room fills up, spilling out into a hallway.
The band did play a gig in Nashville in 2019, as they collected an award from the corporate owner of Foxwood Springs. But their hearts and musical talents are mostly heard at home.
“It’s a great opportunity to share … the little talent I have, but the talent I have with the residents here and bring some sunshine to their day,” said Summers, who at 73 is the youngest “Silver Fox” as they’re known, and the only non-resident.
But these five musicians, or “boys in the band,” benefit too.
“This helps us extend our age. And anyone in their 80’s or 90’s that thinks life is over, it’s just beginning for some of us,” founder McHenry said.
Their Foxwood Springs fans heartily agree, sharing that appreciation with grateful applause at each concert’s final flourish.
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