By Gregg Jones
Equipped with washboards, toilet seat guitars and kazoos, the County Seat Senior Center Kitchen band travels throughout the county to help bring smiles to the faces of area seniors.
Union resident Hettie Becker, who heads up the band, said the group of 10 musicians and singers visit senior centers, nursing homes, assisted living facilities — or anywhere else they are invited — to sing a collection of songs.
“It is such a fun time,” said Becker, the band’s token washboard player. “It is amazing to see these people sit with their eyes closed looking sound asleep, then their feet starts tapping and their mouths start moving. They are singing with us.”
The kitchen band plays nearly every Tuesday in different locations.
“I am so happy to be involved in,” added Becker. “It is marvelous — a good experience.”
Becker has been a member of the band since 2003, and she is the only member who has been with the group since then. She said the group was started by Suzy Murray.
The County Seat Senior Center Kitchen Band got its name from where the band had practiced, and where many are still involved, and from the instruments they play.
There are drums, guitars, piano and other traditional instruments, but the band also is accompanied by instruments including an omnichord, Becker’s washboard, and a stringed instrument fashioned from a toilet seat.
“They are just fun instruments,” she said. “A lot of the time there are wooden spoons.”
Those instruments play about 15 different sets of songs, with about 15 songs per set. Each month the band plays a different set, Becker said.
Many months are themed, she said. For example, in July, the band plays patriotic music.
“They are oldies but goodies. We don’t have a lot of popular songs because we are old,” Becker joked. “We’re the Senior Center Kitchen Band.”
The band members include Becker, Dorothy Clarkson, Bill Crowley, Mary Hoelscher, Mary Holtgrieve, Sandy McMillan, Georgia Paulies, George Taylor, Bonnie Woodruff and Alice Kuenz.
Becker said the band relies heavily on piano, which is played by Clarkson.
“Whenever the opportunity calls, we try to answer it and have a fun time doing it,” Clarkson said.
She added that the band plays at no charge anyplace that they are asked to perform.
“Why would we charge for something that is fun?” she said.
Sometimes the group is able to give song lyrics to the audience for them to participate.
“They are so receptive, it is just fun,” said Becker. That is what it is all about.
In the past, the band had played in more locations, including centers in Sullivan, New Haven and Gerald. However, for some reason, the group hasn’t been called to perform in those communities.
Like many in the band, Becker loves to sing.
“God put this in me — a song in my heart,” she said. If I am not singing, I whistle. The music is there and everyone should have it.”
To contact Becker about the band, or to schedule a performance people may call 636-583-2486.