County seniors celebrate their instrumental musicians

Wichita musicians Mike Ward (left) and Mike Martin perform for the crowd at the Senior Citizens of Marion County annual meeting Oct. 20 in Marion. Both men discovered a passion for instrumental music later in life, and challenged their listeners to consider the same.It’s never too late to experience the joy of making music by learning to play a musical instrument.

That was the message from Mike Ward and Mike Martin, both of Wichita, who were the featured speakers at the 56th annual meeting of the Senior Citi­zens of Marion County, Oct. 30, at the Marion Senior Center.

Both men began or renewed their musical interests later in life.

Ward began playing the mandolin after retiring as a computer support engineer with Hewlett Packard.

Martin, a retired math teacher, literally dug out the accordion he learned to play as a youth that had been buried for years in the closet.

The two musicians were inspired to pursue instrumental music when they began visiting, and eventually joining, informal jam sessions in the Wichita area.

Today, they perform in a variety of forums, including the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield. Ward and Martin played an Irish composition after sharing their stories with the audience.

Senior Stars

Instrumental music was this year’s theme for celebrating the “Senior Stars” who live in Marion County. Fif­teen instrumentalists were recognized for their accomplishments:

• Keith Allison of Marion never took a piano lesson but has played for church choirs and a praise band for years. He continues to play for the local senior center.

• Shirley Bowers of Marion began playing piano in the first grade. She has been a church pianist and has accompanied the Young­town Men’s Quartet for many years.

• Richard Dirks of Hills­boro took up the harmonica after arthritis in his fingers made it difficult to play the guitar. He has played with the Cottonwood River Band and the Hills­boro Senior Jammers.

• Billie Goossen of Hills­boro took up the accordion in 1962. She has played for numerous school programs, nursing homes, churches, camping groups, senior centers and 4-H Club Days. Goossen received a first-place award at the Frankfort Summer Festival.

• Shirley Flaming of Durham plays the piano and organ. She taught herself to play the piano at age 5 and has played organ in various churches for the past 50 years. She now plays during jam sessions at the Hillsboro Senior Center.

• Eleanor Herbel of Hills­boro plays clarinet, piano and organ. When the First Baptist Church of Durham purchased an organ in 1965, Herbel began her 50-year career as church organist.

• Elmer “Bob” Delk began playing guitar at age 10; he plays “by ear” and has never learned to read musical notes. He has played electric guitar with the Peabody Plainsmen and is best known for the group, Bob and the Boys.

• Eugene Just of Marion plays the piano, accordion and bass. He took lessons for three years in grade school, but most of the time he plays by ear. He and Delk have been playing together for 60 years.

• Sonja Koslowsky of Peabody began playing the piano in junior high. She has been pianist for more than 30 years at the First Baptist Church of Peabody and has been the accompanist for the vocal teacher at a middle school in Newton.

• Joyce Medley of Dur­ham started playing her grandparents’ piano and began taking lessons in the seventh grade. When the St. John’s Lutheran Church of Tampa needed an organist, she taught herself to play it and played there a total of 62 years.

• Betty Mueller of Tampa began playing piano as a child. The summer before her freshman year of high school, her mother volunteered her to play the organ for church services when the regular organist was absent. Mueller has played more than 70 years as organist for the Zion Luther­an and St. John’s Lutheran churches, retiring at age 84.

• Judith Priest of Marion started playing violin in the fifth grade, and was given a violin from her Russian violin professor at Asbury Uni­versity; the instrument is more than 300 years old. She has played for local musical events and churches for the past 65 years.

• Hildred Schmidt of Walton plays flute, piano and organ. She started playing piano at age 5 and the flute in eighth grade. She went on to achieve a master’s degree in music education and founded the Silver Sounds Flute Quartet in 1960 to 2004. She taught vocal and instrumental music for 41 years and has been a part-time church organist.

• Suzanne Thole of Marion plays the clarinet and piano. When she was in high school, she was chosen to play in the Kansas Music Educators Association all-state band and was first chair clarinetist in the 1959 Kansas Lions State Band. She also has played in various local bands and has given private lessons in several towns.

• Wanda Williams of Marion plays piano and organ. She began taking piano less at age 8 and started organ at age 12. She has played for a variety of groups for church and school, and has given lessons for both instruments.

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