On any given day the St. Charles Park District Adult Activity Center is bustling with members engaged in various pastimes. You’ll find seniors ages 50 and up playing Pinochle in one room, practicing shots around the pool table or building a high-score in Scrabble. No matter what activity, there is truly something for everyone.
For members of the Harmelodian Club that interest is playing the harmonica. The club, with members in their 70s and 80s, meets every Monday morning for 90 minutes to practice and play together, but also to enjoy each other’s company.
“They are a close-knit group that really cares about each other,” said Lynne Yuill, Adult Activity Center supervisor. “They welcome each other with open arms.”
That sentiment is genuine as members describe their club of harmonica players as welcoming, stress free and like a second family. And that goes a long way for new members, since the majority of newcomers have never played before. Most began playing the harmonica when they joined the club -- at the suggestion of a friend, to socialize or to learn a new skill. But no matter what the reason, one thing’s for certain: once they started, they were hooked and haven’t looked back.
“I look forward to it every Monday. It’s fun, and I enjoy seeing everyone and learning more each week,” said Harmelodian member Carolyn Cowper, who joined the club more than two years ago.
“Being involved with a club or group at the center helps prevent isolation, which happens for many reasons such as a physical limitation or caring for a sick spouse. But if you come to the center, you continue to be engaged with others and it helps keep you young,” Yuill said.
The benefits of playing music are many, including studies that show it can decrease stress; enhance memory; and for the harmonica in particular, it exercises the lungs, helping with breathing.
Members cited other benefits such as building confidence, which was the case for Ken Wallace, who has been a member since the club’s inception nearly 15 years ago.
“This club has changed me from an introvert to an extrovert,” said Wallace, referring to playing in the weekly group as well as performing in front of audiences.
While the Harmelodians have always performed a Christmas concert for the preschool children down the hall, the club has recently taken their band on the road to local assisted-living centers.
“They are bringing enjoyment to others through their music,” Yuill said.
Wallace couldn’t agree more. “That joy is an extension of how we feel playing.”
For more information, contact Lynne Yuill at 630-513-4324.