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The concept may be cliché, but as I sat watching a Bob Dylan documentary (“No Direction Home”) the other day, I was thinking of his song “Forever Young”. Dylan’s lyrics remind us of our pursuit of dreams: “May God bless and keep you always, may your wishes all come true, may you always do for others, and let others do for you, may you build a ladder to the stars, and climb on every rung, may you stay forever young”.

It struck me that our island is just the place to be-“forever young”. With the bikers, pirates, and jimmy buffet fans (now come and gone) it is crystal clear that we have at least two recurring (albeit divergent) populations of visitors coming to the island. Every year we have a new group of “twenty-somethings” coming here for the first time to create some new life experiences (and enjoy little bad behavior). Many leave with great memories of the fun they had here one summer weekend. Then we have the older crowd of 40 and beyond coming back with the hope of remembering what it was like to be here, back when they were 20.

There is a fantasy that we perhaps all pursue over and over again of that joy we remember (or try to) of unbridled youthful fun that brings us a lifetime of great memories and stories retold. Those memories are forged with friends we enjoy being with, while pursuing interests we love like riding a Harley, sailing on a fast yacht, kayaking, dressing up as a pirate or perhaps for a few this summer, playing in an orchestra.

Just ask Jim Stahl, when you run into him down at C dock. He ties up his boat “Summer Audition” many weekends by the Wharfside, never more than earshot from some of our great live summer music. Jim went to college and music conservatory years ago to study his personal passion, the Clarinet and was pretty good at it too. Jim lives now near Cuyahoga Falls and runs a music store. He became very successful in the grade school instrument program, providing music opportunity for elementary aged students, but his active playing days became just a memory.

Then one day back in 1991 he heard about the New Horizon Band. They were featured in the NY Times and then later in story by Dawn Fratangelo on NBC’s Nightly News. (http://www.nhb-neo.org/information.php). A group of folks from age 50 to 90 had banded together to play in a band for the pure love of music. Jim saw the story and was excited about the idea of a second chance to play music again just for the fun of it. A few years went by but the idea stayed with him to start a similar group here in Ohio. Then a chance meeting with an old friend and professional musician Jim Adkins, a percussionist and band director, led to the formation of the New Horizon Band and Orchestra of Summit and Stark County. Today across America there are 120 chapters of the NHB.

Now we all know getting a second chance in life is an amazing and rare opportunity. To rediscover your passion, share it with others, whether for love or money, is a life changing experience. The NHB is just that type of band. Their credo is “It’s never too late, mistakes are good, everyone’s contribution counts”, and most importantly “it’s all about having fun!” Jim Stahl’s personal epiphany was to become the sponsor of the local chapter of NHB and start playing again himself. In fact now over 150 local Northeast Ohio musicians with varied ability all eager to learn and play music “just have fun” weekly in the New Horizon Band and Orchestra.

So how is this like riding a Harley, well just ask Jim what it feels like, the exhilaration he and the band members get as they play for a large crowd this summer at Perry’s Victory on July 10th. Jim tells me that there is scientific proof that you will enjoy better health, live longer, be happier if you just follow your dreams. So no matter whether your midlife fantasy is riding a Harley, sailing by the stars, or playing a clarinet in a band or orchestra don’t just sit there, I think Put-in-Bay may be the place where you can fulfill your fantasy and find that second chance. Have fun, and don’t worry if you miss a few notes along the way and stay forever young.

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