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Seniors shake to the beat

Article Published: Feb. 4, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Seniors shake to the beat

Bob Stewart and Budd Hunt play, as Joseph Phillips and Virginia Yates tap to the music.

Photo by Lauren K. Ohnesorge

There's toe tapping, knee slapping, body shaking and that's just the crowd.

"It seems to lift a lot of people up," Virginia Yates said.

At times, that lift can be literal as people move to the beat.

No, it's not a concert hall; it's your very own Watauga County Senior Center, and there's plenty of music to go around.

Just ask Lonnie Ward. He's been strumming the mandolin for more than 50 years and isn't ready to let up yet.

"If we were any better you wouldn't be able to stand it, would you?" he asks with a grin, picking the strings to "Clementine."

Ward, like many of the other musicians, is retired.

"Oh, I'm tired as I can be," he joked.

Playing at the center does more than entertain the crowd.

"What do you think I'm going to do? Play football?" 87-year-old retired firefighter Budd Hunt said.
"It passes the time," Ward said.

If you ask him, he'll tell you how he plays the guitar, the dulcimer, even the television.
It's more than music, though; it's stories.

"I've been singing all my life," self-proclaimed "old timey alto" Yates said. "I've got a lot of compliments at church, everywhere I've been."

Each memory has its own story.

"Used to sing with Ronnie," she said, pointing to a photograph of a guitar singer, "but he's passed on."

The music, mostly bluegrass, folk, country and hymns, represents a simpler time, drastically different than mechanically enhanced pop ballads.

"I didn't hear that stuff when I was growing up," Yates said, "This is better music for me."
"[Music] has changed because people have changed," Bob Stewart said.

He's been playing guitar since 1946, and that won't change any time soon.

"Country music will always be here," he said.

And so will the senior center, Project on Aging director Tabitha Thomas said. The music is an important weekly event.

"It draws in community people who otherwise wouldn't come to the center," she said.
Senior or otherwise, it may be the perfect way to spend your lunch break.

"Anyone can come here and have lunch, but if you're 60 or over, it's free," she said, and the music's free for everyone.

"If they don't come, tell them they're missing out," Ward said.

Musicians of all ages are encouraged to join in.

The music happens every Thursday at the Lois E. Harrill Senior Center from 10 a.m. to noon.
Non-seniors can enjoy a full lunch for $5.98. Seniors eat free.

For more information, call the center at (828) 265-8090.

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