Houston, Texas—Ten years ago when Dan Wagner moved to Eagle's Trace with his wife, he could never imagine he would eventually be playing the ukulele.
"I hadn't touched a ukulele since high school," said the former resident of Lakewood Forest. "But that all changed when we met Buddy Griffin."
Inducted into the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame in 2005, Mr. Griffin performed a concert at the Erickson Living retirement community in West Houston. Following the event, he offered to teach residents to play.
A few sessions later, a group of residents, now sixteen strong, formed the Eagle's Trace Strummers under the leadership of Mr. Griffin.
"Their enthusiasm and willingness to learn something new drew me to them," stated Mr. Griffin, a retired pastor who lives in nearby Ashford Lakes. "From the beginning, I said that you don't get too old to play; you get too old because you quit playing."
He added that "the ukulele is ideal because of its light weight, nylon strings and relative inexpensive price. You can be successful in making beautiful music quickly."
The full instrumentation of the Strummers features the ukulele along with the bass, piano, trumpet, drums, xylophone, vocalists and even a kazoo or two.
The Strummers have produced "miles of smiles" by performing their mix of standards, classics, country western and jazz to audiences at senior centers and civic organizations throughout West Houston.
"Over a lifetime, music seeps into people's hearts. Hearing a favorite tune can be the best medicine for some folks, and we enjoy the opportunity to share our music with others," said Mr. Griffin, who noted that the group plans to travel again in 2016. A date at Minute Maid Park before a Houston Astros game is also in the works.
The group's camaraderie is forged during Monday morning "jam sessions," when the Strummers rehearse in a popular social hub of Eagle's Trace.
"One word describes this time together: fun," said Mr. Wagner. "We laugh and cut-up, but in the process, we make pretty good music. It is very common to have an audience of our fellow residents. Many of them look forward to it as much as we do."
Having earned recognition across the country and internationally, Mr. Griffin is noted for his intergenerational work with his All Star Youth Banjo Band. But he has made a lasting impression closer to home.
"Buddy is a dynamo, the right man for the job as we pursue our musical interests," said Mr. Wagner. "The Eagle's Trace Strummers are fortunate to consider him both our teacher and our friend."
For more information about the Eagle's Trace Strummers, please call Lisa Hadley, Community Resources Coordinator, at 281-249-7220.
About Eagle's Trace: Eagle's Trace is one of eighteen continuing care retirement communities managed by Erickson Living. Located in Houston, Texas, the scenic 70-acre campus is home to more than 650 residents. Eagle's Trace is the ideal greater Houston retirement destination offering a true sense of community, convenience beyond compare and a sensible financial structure.