Allow Me to Introduce Gene Long (80)
I heard Gene play with the Blythewood Jazz Orchestra at their annual public concert in Blythewood, and I was impressed with the music, the camaraderie, the free homemade food, the lovely environment, but mostly I was taken in by Gene and wife Lyn’s hospitality and energy. Lyn danced to almost every number the orchestra played. Gene is living proof that 80 is the new 60!
What instruments do you play?
I play the euphonium and the trombone.
What is an euphonium?
It’s similar to a baritone horn, it looks like a small upright tuba (see photo below) … it has a sweet sound. The euphonium is played in concert bands (indoors and formal dress) and I play the trombone in the Blythewood Jazz Orchestra and the Gene Dykes Big Band Jazz Orchestra.
What is your favorite genre of music to listen to and how did you come to like it?
My favorite music to listen to is within the Big Band/Jazz genre as well as classical trombone. I got hooked in high school while playing in Tommy Hall’s band. We toured all over the state of Virginia.
How long have you been playing?
I played the euphonium and the trombone in high school days. In fact, I was with the Tommy Hall Concert Band in highschool, and we played proms, dance clubs and fraternity parties all over the state of Virginia. But I put the instruments down after high school, and I didn’t pick them up again for 50 years.
Fifty years without playing?
That’s right. I retired from the University of South Carolina in 2002, completed a couple of research projects and then was ready for something new. Lyn suggested I pick up the instruments again, so I contacted Bill Ackerman, who leads the Columbia Community Concert Band. He asked me to come sit in “I haven’t played in 50 years”, I told him, and he said, “ well sit in and see what happens”. And I realized fairly quickly that I remembered how to play, and the more I played, the better I got.
Do you practice? Rehearse often?
I try and play at least 20 minutes everyday. I have weekly rehearsals with the concert band and the jazz orchestras.
Where can we hear you play this summer?
The Blythewood Jazz Orchestra will be playing at Bill’s Pickin’ Parlor on July 23 and we’ll have the free outdoor concert in Blythewood on Sunday, September 20, 2015 from 2pm – 7pm. Everyone’s invited.
What keeps you interested in continuing to play?
I love the friendships I have developed with my fellow musicians. I feel like they are an extension of my family. We really are very connected.
What music venues in Columbia do you like to go and listen at?
I like going to the jazz shows at Speakeasy in Five Points and Pearlz Upstairs. Each year the Carolina Jazz Society puts on Dixieland Jazz concerts, that I like to go to, with some of the best musicians in South Carolina: Dick Goodwin, Doug Graham, Jim Hall, Bruce Clark, Aletha Jacobs, and Reggie Sullivan.
Are there any music festivals that you like to go to?
The Newport Beach Jazz Festival in California that has tons of famous jazz musicians and is one of my favorite festivals to go to. There is usually a large turnout, so it’s always a fun time talking with the fellow jazz enthusiasts.
What advice can you give to someone who may have played an instrument as a kid, or never at all, and
would like to play in a band?
There is a community concert band in most communities… Columbia, Aiken, Camden all have them. Call one and go sit in on a rehearsal. There are no auditions for community concert bands. You’ll quickly see if you’re good enough to keep up with the band. Also, there is a program at USC School of Music for adults – Congaree New Horizons Band, where you can learn to play or brush up on your skills.
I get the impression that Lyn is your most ardent fan. How has music enhanced your relationship?
Music is another attribute of Lyn’s that makes her so special. She sings, taps, and plays the ukulele in the Carolina Sunshine Band.
Blythewood Jazz Orchestra: Free outdoor concert on September 20th, from 2-7PM! Bring your family, friends and your lawn chairs! Lorick Road. Blythewood