'I wish I hadn't given it up:' Saint John band offers former musicians second chance

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'I wish I hadn't given it up:' Saint John band offers former musicians second chance

'I wish I hadn't given it up:' Saint John band offers former musicians second chance

It's not often you get a second chance at something in your life, but that's what's happening for some musicians in Saint John.

The Port City Second Chance Band wants to help lapsed musicians pick up an instrument again, or even for the first time.

Since September, 51 musicians have been rehearsing once a week under the direction of Andrea Lewis, who also teaches music in Anglophone South school district.

Now they are ready for their first public performance, which is coming up May 7.

The idea came about from Lewis's time conducting the city's Saint Mary's Band.

"Inevitably, every concert, someone from the audience would come up to me and say, 'You know, I've always wished I'd learned to play the trumpet or the saxophone,' or they'd say, 'I played the clarinet for a year in junior high, and I wish I hadn't given it up.'"

That was the case for Fran Oliver, who is now playing flute.

"I wouldn't have known how to hold it before September," Oliver said. "I wouldn't have recognized it as a flute before September. I played nothing in school, music notation was gobbledegook, and there's days that it still is, but that's progressing."

Oliver is impressed that someone with the skill level of Andrea Lewis is willing to put so much time into this group of newcomers.

Good students

Lewis is grateful for the energy the players put into it.

"These adults work harder and practise harder," she said. "I made it very clear when they started they kind of had to sign their life away to me. I said, you have to practise every day. And we tell our kids at school that, and we know they don't ... and I know these folks are practising every single day."

Chris Brilliant, who is a teacher, is playing trumpet.

"I started when I was in Grade 6, so in 1986," he said. "I played for three years and quit when I was in Grade 9. So I knew my basic notes and those kinds of things, but we've reached the point now where we're playing some pieces now that are challenging me."

Lewis said the speed they are learning is astonishing, and she's also surprised at how well the band members get along, considering they were all strangers when they started.

"They're so encouraging of each other," she said. "Anytime somebody has been struggling with a concept or a passage, and then they get it, the band erupts in cheers and applause, and they are so supportive."

The band's first public performance will be May 7 at 2 p.m. at Simonds High School, as the opening act for Saint Mary's Band.

Tickets are by donation and funds raised will help buy new instruments for the 527 Simonds Air Cadets.