The Washington Post

Forget the Medicare, pick up an instrument

Adrienne G. Cannon. (Joel Robert Cannon/FTWP)

We can politely agree as we sigh at the amount of effort prescribed for us so we can maintain our mental faculties at their optimum level and avoid illness - even if it is covered by Medicare. Sitting in a chair is not so bad, I reason, as I would be while grappling with those mind games.

But my favorite thing to do while sitting is to play in concert bands. I play regularly with the Mount Vernon Community Band and the NOVA Alexandria campus Band. These two bands have members who are as old as 90. I am 73 and many of my colleagues in the band are retirees and come to us in their 60’s and just stay, as I have. I have been playing the clarinet since I retired 15 years ago.

Bonding with friends should make those advice-givers happy.

And what friends they are. Some are 20 years older and need help carrying (or finding) their instrument, setting up their music stand and even getting in and out of their chair, especially after a long rehearsal. I can empathize when arthritis attacks my aging joints.

But how we come alive when we begin to play! Our spirit is renewed as we play through the score following the conductor, counting measures, sensing the rhythm and interpreting the dynamics.

Some of us have played all of our lives. Others have returned to an instrument we played as youth. Yet the whole group (concert band, chamber group, swing band) continues to perform activities that younger folks envy.

Our hearing discrimination is better than many of our peers. Our vision, poor as it may be, is keen enough to read a musical transcript. Our minds can calculate notes and render them into sound by key combinations or breath production.

No wonder musicians seem to live longer and hurt less. Maybe music, not Medicare or mind games, is the prescription for staying healthy.

There are people, places, pets, things and times in our life that stand out. They enter our lives and never leave: connections. It’s our opportunity to hear from you. We want the humorous and poignant. Send us your submissions of no more than 500 words, along with photos (in a JPG format), to

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