Thursday, April 17, 2008

The StillWaters Jazz Band Version Of A USO Tour

Justin Dixon talking with one of the residents of the NC Veterans HomeThis past Saturday the StillWaters Jazz Band had one of its most fun gigs so far. We got to play at the NC Veterans' Home on the campus of the VA Hospital in Salisbury, NC. None of us really knew what to expect as we began unloading our equipment. We set up in the front lobby of the facility and the crowd began to gather.

Right off the bat we could tell that these guys were different than the groups we had played for so far. They were asking questions and talking to us - genuinely interested in what we were doing and who we were. It didn't take long before our nerves had settled down. In the picture above you can see Justin talking with one of the residents. This particular fellow was really up on his jazz. He related one story about how he had the pleasure of seeing Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Al Hirt in concert with some other giants of the jazz world back in the late 60s. We were all envious!

Sara Dickson talks with one of her many admirers at the NC Veterans HomeUnfortunately, we didn't have any of our friends or family with us so pictures didn't get taken until after the fact, but in many ways these pictures really communicate the sweetness of the time that we had with these aging heroes. These folks were awesome! They interacted with us throughout the entire show, and as you can see, many hung around afterwards to talk.

Sara was a particular favorite of the crowd. I guess it is tough to be the only pretty girl in the band! One fellow in particular was quite vocal in his appreciation! (It isn't the fellow that appears in this picture though!)

We opened the show with Stormy Weather. We thought it fitting considering the weather that day. When we announced the title of the song one of the fellows asked which one of us was going to be singing. We told him that was HIS job! Well, he didn't sing it, but another fellow did, and he did a fine job I might add.

Jonathan Eller talks with one of the residents of the NC Veterans HomeThis week we were running a little short. Our bass player, Gillon wasn't able to join us. I think his insane schedule finally caught up with him! We really missed having him with us, because he adds a lot. Hopefully he'll be back in the loop soon!

I was really blessed by most of the conversations that I had with the guys. The gentleman that I was talking to in the picture was wounded twice during World War II. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge. I learned a lot talking with him. I hope that he'll be able to join us the next time that we play there. And we will be playing there again. We all THOROUGHLY enjoyed ourselves. And the residents seemed to have a good time too.

In fact, one of the nurses on duty there came out to make sure that she got our card so that they could invite us back. She told me that if the guys hadn't liked us they wouldn't have wasted any time leaving. That made me feel pretty good. Most of the guys hung around for the duration. But as much as they seemed to enjoy our music they seemed to enjoy our company even more.

Another fellow used to play piano when he was in service. He worked with one of the chaplains and played hymns for the chapel services. He is blind now, but can still play. All of the residents were encouraging him to play some with us. I hope we can talk him into it when we go back.

Justin Dickson (foreground) and Jonathan Eller (background) talking with residents of the NC Veterans HomeWe even had a lady who got up and danced about halfway through the show. It was a great experience.

We had numerous requests too. Someone requested Amazing Grace and another wanted to hear Taps. OK, that one weirded us out a little bit, but hey, he was the one who asked! We also got requests for Stardust, Misty, and In The Mood. Unfortunately we couldn't just whip those out, but we plan to add them before we go back.

This week in practice we worked on Bye Bye Blackbird, The Preacher, I've Heard That Song Before, Little Brown Jug, and St. Louis Blues. I think that all of these will do well with our friends at the NC Veterans' Home next time. They will probably come in handy this weekend too. We'll be playing at the Salisbury Brian Center on Saturday from 3:00 to 5:00. I expect we'll be playing for a similar crowd. We are also hoping to schedule a couple shows for Trinity Oaks in the coming weeks. I hope that they will be as fun as the guys at the Veterans' Home.

As much fun as we have playing this music by ourselves, it is even more fun to be playing it for someone else. It was a blast giving just a little back to these men and women who gave so much for us. We can never adequately repay them for all of their sacrifice on our behalf, but it sure was fun beginning the payback. Justin said it well when he said, "One day a year isn't enough to tell you guys thanks."

No comments: