Remember taking band in elementary school? Maybe you stuck with it through high school or even college. Then, the responsibilities of adulthood settled in, and music became something you just listened to in the car.
For some people, the love of music and playing an instrument never left – even after a 20- or 30-year hiatus.
In Durango, adults who want to get back into playing music or are completely new to it can dive into the program at Stillwater Music.
Into rock? There’s a band you can join. Blues more your style – are you busy Tuesday nights? There are also classes for songwriting, theory and improvisation, and a samba band, if you’re so inclined.
And it’s at Stillwater where you’ll find Robert Bogner playing the drums.
Back in the bandBogner, originally from Arizona and who now calls Durango home, caught the music bug early.
“I always wanted to be in music,” says Bogner, who’s in his early 80s. “I was one of those guys who would take the pots and pans from the kitchen and beat on the lids. And my dad used to say, ‘Boy, can you keep still for a minute?’ because I was pounding on everything.”
Bogner started playing the drums in grade school and continued through high school. In college, he played in everything from symphonies to avant-garde jazz groups.
“Anything that came along,” he says.
What came along included late-night jam sessions in Tucson, Arizona, where, Bogner says, everyone was welcome.
“As long as you were interested in music,” he says, “you could bring your instrument – they called them ‘axes’ – and you could play. We would play until the sun would come up, get a few hours sleep then go back to school.”
Then, the responsibilities of adulthood settled in, and it would be about 35 years before Bogner would play again. He was “dealing with issues, real-life issues,” he says.
Eventually, with the help of his son, he got back into the swing.
“My son says, ‘Dad, why don’t you get your chops up and start playing again?’” Bogner said. “And I said, ‘You know something, Mitchell? I’m an old guy. Look, the music scene has passed me by. I don’t even know what’s going on anymore, I don’t know one artist from another.’”
But his son insisted, and Bogner began practicing in his son’s studio.
“I played a little bit, and I was terrible – just absolutely terrible,’ he says.
Then it happened.
“I gave it a lot of thought, and I said, ‘You know something? I’m going to go for it,’” he says.
Bogner started studying with different teachers for a couple of years before he moved to Durango, where a friend introduced him to Steve Dejka, music director at Stillwater.
These days, he plays in three bands and takes lessons.
“Music, for whatever reason ... has always been a very, very important part of my life,” he says.
Memories motivateThe adult program at Stillwater Music has doubled in the past two years and now has 51 students.
“A lot of the classes form from the demand that we see, and then we start a class and then that’s what attracts more,” says instructor Evan Suitor.
The instructors said that adults tend to find music for many reasons – including as a way to escape the daily grind.
“They’ve gotten tired of, or maybe they’ve gotten off their personal important track of life and, not that they want to quit their day job ... maybe the kids move out of the house and they’ve got that extra time,” Dejka says. “It has become a mirror image of our youth program – it’s all ages of adults and it’s all experience levels.”
For others, the memories of playing an instrument as kids get them motivated to come back.
“I think that people remember how much they loved it (playing) before,” Suitor says. “A lot of our horn players were band kids growing up. ... That musical experience early on I think touched them, and they remember that throughout their lives and they always say they’re going to go back to it, and then some of them actually walk out the door and do (it).”
But sometimes, adults create roadblocks in their own minds about picking up something new.
“You talk to a lot of people who are over the age of 30 and they have that, ‘Well, I’m too old to learn anything new,’ and most of us totally throw that out the window because there’s a lot of evidence to prove the contrary,” Suitor says.
That’s where the musicians at Stillwater – both instructors and students – come in.
“Our bands do gigs all the time, and other people see them play, sometimes talk to them on a break and it almost gives them permission to be like, ‘Oh, you mean I can get the old guitar out again and be doing this within six months?’” Dejka says. “And Stillwater provides the direction, the person that organizes. That’s the hard thing as an adult ... adults have very little time, they’ve got a full life. It’s nice for us to be able to provide direction. They come in ... we put it all together.”
And for the musicians, the sense of community keeps them coming back.
“That’s what keeps me going, to be good enough to fit in, support the people, help them realize whatever they want to do in music, whether they want to express the feeling in a certain tune, however they want to do it,” Bogner says.