Nova Scotia

Symphony of baby boomers head back to band camp

A group of people over the age of 50 are learning how to play an instrument at Dalhousie University this week.

Dalhousie University encourages people to return to music

A group of people, including Bobbie Mildenberger, are learning how to play an instrument at Dalhousie University this week. (CBC)

A clarinet plays in the background. A violin can be heard tuning. A horn warms up. It’s band camp season across the country, but this week an atypical group of students are gathering at Dalhousie University to brush up on their musical expertise.

The musicians are all over 50.

Bobbie Mildenberger says she grew up playing piano, but turned to percussion a year and a half ago.

"Challenging, but fun…I have a drum set and I actually just got a set of tympani to practice at home," she said.

Alheizmers runs in her family, so she said she hopes music will keep her mind sharp.

"Long schedule every day and we are only here for five days and we have to learn six, 12 pieces in five days to learn and perform," Mildenberger said.

The 60 musicians played in community bands, but many took decades off from playing.

Conductor Paul Barrett said age is not slowing the group down.

"Legs start to ache and people can't physically play some instruments so they have to opt for something different," he said.

The retired band teacher said the camp is a chance to focus on new music for a week.

"It’s just gratifying to see people of this age learn something new," he said.

"I had a friend who said, ‘When was the last time you did something for the first time?’ So that's kind of cool."