By Michael Fortuna
THE VILLAGES — Bob Watkins plays an assortment of wind instruments, from the clarinet to the saxophone to the bassoon.
As for which instrument is his favorite, he said “it’s the one I’m playing that day. Whether it’s a clarinet or a flute, it’s the one I’m having fun with.”
When The Villages Concert Band presents its concert, “Around the World,” Watkins will be found in the bassoon section, and he will perform an alto sax solo in another song.
The band, under the direction of Jean Butler and Ward Green, will perform music from around the globe during its concerts at 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at Savannah Center.
Tickets are $10 for residents and $13 for the public, and are available at any Villages Box Office location or online at thevillages.net/boxoffice.
During Monday’s performance, the band will give a check for $10,000 to Fisher House in Tampa; the money was raised during the band’s July concert.
Expect to hear such songs as “Carmina Burana,” “Tritsch Tratsch Polka,” a new piece called “Mount Everest,” “Italian Holiday,” “Florentiner March,” “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans,” “The Emperor’s Waltz” and “Latin Celebration.”
“We came up with the idea of (choosing a) variety of music that will be enjoyable for the audience and for the band to play,” said Butler, who lives in the Village of Glenbrook. “They’re going very, very well (in rehearsals). We’re just about ready.
“I think it’s going to be a fun concert.”
Watkins’ first instrument was the alto saxophone; he learned it at the age of 9. A music instructor thought that the sax would be easy for Watkins to play because of his overbite.
Watkins later discovered that if he was to have a career in music, he would have to play several wind instruments instead of just one. He turned pro at the age of 14.
While in college, he learned all of the wind instruments. Around 1968, Watkins played in several bands while in the U.S. Navy, including a 19-piece jazz band that toured all over Europe.
At one point, he spent some time playing in New Orleans. Watkins also got called to play in various Broadway shows that rolled into town, and he taught high school and elementary music for several years.
Watkins moved to The Villages seven years ago, but he wasn’t planning to play music.
“I wanted to play golf,” Watkins said. “I play so little golf right now.”
In addition to the concert band, Watkins is in several area music groups.
“I don’t mean to be (busy),” he said. “I love to perform.”
Watkins, who lives in the Village of Chatham, dusted off an old Czech bassoon for which he had bartered many years ago, but it wasn’t in good playing condition. Three years ago, he bought a newer model.
“It plays a lot better,” Watkins said.
Linda Miller, a Village of Summerhill resident, plays percussion and the keyboard mallets in the group.
She started off in The Villages New Horizons Concert Band a couple of years ago, then played in both bands before moving over to the Concert Band.
“I wanted to play the timpani one more time,” Miller said. “(Playing music is) a wonderful skill to have into old age.”
Miller has been playing the piano all of her life. At one point, she played in her junior high school’s orchestra, but the group’s conductor convinced her to head over to the concert band, where she joined the percussion section.
“The timpani is a lot of fun,” Miller said. “You constantly change the keys. It’s good for a pianist because I can read both treble and bass clef.”
Playing music took a back seat to Miller’s career for 35 years, but when she retired, she decided to return to the fold thanks to the New Horizons concert band and The Villages Concert Band.
“It’s a wonderful group of people,” Miller said. “They take a piece of music, and if (you hear it the first week), you think, ‘Oh my gosh.’ Then it evolves into a wonderful piece.”
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