Swinging At The Senior Center

Every Tuesday, a group of gray-haired musicians relive memories of the Big Band era--and their youth.
Early in his career, Roger Dietz played for the Xavier Cugat Orchestra and the Ralph Stuart Society Band. He later became band director at a high school in Bristol, R.I. When he took the band over, there were 42 members; when he retired it had grown to 160.

Make your way to the Senior Center in Vero Beach any Tuesday morning and you’ll find a bunch of regular guys—most of them with a lot of silver in whatever hair they have left—sitting around the long banquet tables, ribbing each other and catching up. Then someone gives a sign and the tables empty as Mel Monico’s Rhythmairs head for the bandstand, pick up their instruments and wait for Mel’s downbeat. There is music at the Senior Center every weekday morning and many of these swing band musicians play on the other days, but Tuesdays are special, when the big sound pulls the audience to the dance floor like a full moon draws the tide.

Swing was king when the musicians—and dancers—were in their prime. Some danced to the music of Benny Goodman, the Dorseys, Artie Shaw and others, but all of them listened to it, and most of them played it.

Read the entire article in the November 2006 issue