Penn-Trafford band unites two generations in concerts


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The youngest members of the Penn Trafford Community Band are in middle school; the oldest are in their 80s.

But they're all there to relax, learn and entertain.

When band manager Rob Rometo started assembling the band five years ago, he hadn't picked up his trombone in "literally 40 years." He recruited people who played an instrument in high school or college but stopped to build a career and raise a family.

"These are just people who enjoyed playing when they're younger, and they haven't played in awhile," he said. The band has since grown to 65 members, about 20 of whom are high-school age.

"I've done a lot of recruiting over the last four and a half years," Mr. Rometo said.

Pat Blahovec of Harrison City has been with the band since its inception. Mr. Rometo and conductor Bill Balawajder were in the market for an alto saxophone player and knew Ms. Blahovec, 58, used to play.

"I said, 'Well, I haven't played in 30 years,' " she said. But she gave it a shot and "everything came back."

"It's kind of like riding a bike, I guess," she said.

The Penn Trafford Community Band was the perfect opportunity to repair her saxophone and start playing again.

She said the members of the band help each other. The younger members tell the older members about new trends in music, and the older members mentor the younger ones, she said.

"It's great to play with a wide range of people," Ms. Blahovec said. "It keeps you young, and there's a good rapport between the age groups."

Nicholas Norman, 13, is in his third season with the Penn Trafford Community Band.

Mr. Balawajder invited him to play when he was 11 years old, the youngest member to be invited to join the band, which plays everything from jazz and big band sounds to show tunes and patriotic marches. Anyone can join -- there are no age requirements and no tryouts.

Nicholas started off playing the clarinet, but now he plays tenor saxophone, too. He said the community band is more challenging than the school band.

"At first, it was really, really hard," he said. "Now, it's very fun to play."

Nicholas' mother, Kim Norman, said he's getting a better education by participating in a more advanced band.

"As a parent, it's just tremendous for me," she said. "We enjoy going to all the concerts."

The Penn Trafford Community Band played at the Ligonier Bandstand last Sunday -- its biggest summer concert -- but it performs about 15 shows per year throughout Westmoreland and Allegheny counties year-round. For a listing of upcoming concerts, visit the band's website, www.ptcommunityband.org.

neigh_east - neigh_westmoreland

Annie Siebert: asiebert@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.


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