Local Band Enchants Audiences with Musical Tunes for Everyone

STORY AND PHOTOS BY JANIE ROSMAN

Larry Zaidan (white shirt) conducts orchestra arrangement
Larry Zaidan (white shirt) conducts orchestra arrangement

Residents and guests of the Northern Metropolitan Residential Healthcare Facility in Monsey were wowed by a special Grandparents Day put on by the 50-piece Rockland County Concert Band .

“We have tunes from ‘Carousel,’ ‘Porgy and Bess,’ ‘The Untouchables,’ ‘Grease’ — you name it, we can play it,” executive director Paul Bastone said prior to the concert.

When music director/conductor Lawrence Zaidan picked up his baton for Johannes Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance No. 5,” a few people began clapping. “That song is used in cartoons,” he said at its conclusion. A medley of Yiddish tunes had some people nodding with memories as did music from The Untouchables, most notably theme from Peter Gunn.

Although it was a fledgling group during its early days, the band flourished under Bastone, a trumpet player who joined the band in 1979, and Zaidan, director of Coppelia Music Services and board president of the Rockland Symphony Orchestra.

Northern Metropolitan’s recreation director Brenda Warsaw said the concert band has been entertaining at the facility for at least 10 years. “They practice for months on end, and everyone here looks forward to the concert for Grandparents Day.”

Laura Nochomovits, who will celebrate her 100th birthday in less than two years, said the band played professionally and was entertaining.

“If I heard this concert at Carnegie Hall, the tickets would cost at least $1,000,” she said with a grin, adding that her three daughters are or were involved with music. “My oldest daughter is the music director of Park East Synagogue in New York City.

Chaya Friedman found the music to be delightful, and an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon. Her husband Elli Friedman said the concert attracts people who wouldn’t’ ordinarily come to the facility.

“The band plays different types of music, and there’s something for everyone,” he said. “People here aren’t afraid to speak up, and if they weren’t happy with the band, it wouldn’t be asked to return each year.”

Established in 1981, the 120-bed healthcare facility is part of Northern Services Group and is managed by Centers for Specialty Care, offering assisted living, skilled nursing centers, home care, and adult onsite day health centers with a medical model program that includes outpatient physical therapy.

“We have programs for our residents’ spiritual, physical, emotional and cognitive needs, since we have a diverse population that includes many backgrounds,” Warsaw said. “Some of the 200 staff members have been with the facility for many years, which says a lot about us. They’re like family.”

Each unit has a musical program at least four to five times per month and at least three daily programs — religious, musical, exercise, games. “It’s a lively environment, and residents look forward to sitting outside on the patio during nice weather,’ she said.

Westchester Elementary Strings, one of Greater Westchester Youth Orchestras Association’s (GWYOA) three orchestras, will perform at Northern Metropolitan on December 4.

Zaidan, a tuba player, teaches music at Pearl River Middle School and has been conducting for the past 32 years. “It’s tricky to learn because you can’t practice; it’s communicating with people.”

The band, which includes students from Pearl River and other local schools, will take a recess from playing while it learns new music in time for its holiday program beginning December 6.

“We rehearse in the Nanuet (Senior) High School music room on Tuesday nights and are always looking for new members,” Zaidan said. Interested musicians can contact the band via its website.