For Virginia Hoskins, 91, playing music is a way of life

Saturday, May 15, 2010

by Lauren Nelson
Published in the Lodi News-Sentinel May 15, 2010

Virginia Hoskins is a 91-year-old musician who plays mallets for the Lodi Community Band.

Virginia Hoskins may be 91, but she’s still active in the Lodi Community Band.

Though she played the drums in the band for almost 45 years, she now plays the bells, or mallets. The Lodi resident, who also plays the piano and organ, will perform this weekend during the Lodi Community Band’s Spring Concert at First Baptist Church in Lodi. Hoskins took a few moments to talk about her musical life with Lodi Living Editor Lauren Nelson.

Q: Is there anyone who has influenced or mentored you musically?

Lodi Community Band Spring Concert

When: Sunday, May 16, at 3 p.m.

Where: First Baptist Church, 267 N. Mills Ave.

Admission is free.

Also featuring Cell Block 7 Jazz Band led by Bob Romans

A: My husband and I met each other through our music. We were both in the band, up until six years ago. We have two children who were musical. My daughter, Connie, was a French horn player and our son, Christopher, followed his father with the clarinet. They started in the band and left me home alone. I wanted to be in the band . . . so I started as a drummer. I took lessons at (University of the) Pacific on the snare drum, so I got in the band, too.

Q: How has your life been enriched by playing music?

A: It’s something I love to do and I was pleased with the children. I taught my daughter. Music makes us happy, and it’s also challenging to make new music.

Q: If you were to go back to the age of 10 and tell people what technology is available in 2010, what would be the most interesting item?

A: That big thing, the iPad. I saw that on Mother’s Day. My grandson had one of those. Amazing! All the things you can do, I couldn’t believe it.

Life was very different back then. And slow.

Q: Do you have a favorite memory of being on stage or performing?

A: Yes, I played at the World’s Fair on Treasure Island with a friend of mine; two accordions. It was 1939. The accordion was my first instrument. It was my father’s instrument, so I learned to play it. I’m Finnish and he played for the Finnish dances. When I became older and better, I went to San Francisco to play with him. We went on the ferry boat. Oh, I thought that was exciting.

I was in college then, at Berkeley.

Q: How do you prepare for a performance?

A: We practice a lot at Millswood, every Monday night. We practice at home, too.

Q: How long have you lived in Lodi?

A: Fifty years. My husband’s work transferred here from Redding. He was a supervisor for CalTrans in Stockton.

Q: You play the organ very beautifully. How did you learn to play?

A: I taught myself, but I could do that quite easily because I play the piano. It wasn’t difficult.

Q: What instrument do you play?

A: The bells. Mallets is the proper name. I’ve been playing maybe a year.

Q: What did you play previously?

A: The drums, percussion.

Q: Do you still play percussion?

A: Well, I’d like to. They put me on the bells and we have enough drummers now.

Q: How has music changed over the years?

A: Well, different types of music have come in with the different years. We still have the classical music.

Q: Do you like some of the changes you’ve seen?

A: Simoncic’s music is quite new and difficult. It’s nice. He’s going to direct us for his own number.

Q: What should people expect from this weekend’s concert?

A: I hope it’s going to be a good one. I know it will be. We have some very fine musicians, music majors.

Q: What do you like most about living in Lodi?

A: I think it’s a wonderful place. The weather is great. The people are very nice. Even though it’s grown, it’s still small enough to be a favorite town.

Q: Why do you think it’s important to preserve the art of music?

A: I certainly do, and I don’t like to see when they withdraw music (from schools). I think it’s a discipline. I think it adds a great deal to a person’s life. You can start music when you’re young and it can stay with you all your life. You meet very nice people through your music. It’s an art. It’s challenging.

Q: Do you have any musical goals that you’d still like to accomplish?

A: I’d like to keep going on. I will as long as I can. I want to improve. I do with the bells because I haven’t been with them long enough.

Q: What quality does the bells give to the music?

A: It’s metallic, so they ring. Bob Gross says it gives a nice pleasant ring to the other instruments and it goes right through. I ask him, “Do you hear me?” And he says, “Oh, yes.” It’s a bell tone.

Q: What do the bells look like? Can you hold them in your hands?

A: No, they’re on a stand right in front of me. I sit down and have two mallets.

Q: What’s the hardest part of playing the mallets?

A: Usually percussion is so far back you have to pay attention and listen very closely and watch the director; read the music carefully.

Mr. Simoncic’s music has a lot of rest for the bells, and you have to count those and you have to be right there. That is difficult.

Q: Do you have a favorite band?

A: I think the Stockton Symphony is very good.

Q: Have you done anything to help get young people involved in music?

A: I have taught my own children and I have had several students. I taught music in Alameda for several years until my husband came home from the war.

Q: You went to college at University of California, Berkeley. What did you major in?

A: Economics.

Q: How long were you married?

A: We were married 63 years. I really miss him; he was a wonderful man. The music was what was so interesting to both of us. We could play here with music, with clarinet and piano. It was fun.

Q: I bet your family gatherings are pretty entertaining?

A: Oh, yes. My daughter married into a music family and she has two pianos. We have more fun playing two pianos.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not working on the house or playing music?

A: Read. I read more for fact or mysteries. I listen to the news.

Q: What’s your favorite part about playing with the Lodi Community Band?

A: The company of the other musicians. The sound of music. We have a lot of very nice people in the band. Music brings nice people together.

Q: Is there any member who’s been in the band longer than you have?

A: No, I don’t think so.

Q: How have you seen the band change?

A: I think we’ve improved. We have more people. We have very good directors and they have their own tastes. We joined Delta, and that was a big help to us.

Q: What would you like others to know about the Lodi Community Band?

A: We are glad to have any musicians join us. It’s a lot of fun.

“Fanfare and March” Dedicated to City of Lodi

The Lodi Community Band’s Spring Concert on Sunday will feature the premier performance of “Fanfare and March,” a composition by Max Simoncic, to be dedicated to the city of Lodi.

Simoncic, who was commissioned by the band to write “Fanfare and March,” has written other songs for Lodi, including the orchestral song that was performed during the opening of Hutchins Street Square. Simoncic is a retired music instructor of San Joaquin Delta College.

When the group first asked Simoncic to write the piece, his goal was to not copy famous composer and conductor John Philip Sousa.

“I wanted to do something that’s kind of a joyful march. It’s more of a lyrical type of march,” Simoncic said.

It took him 2 1/2 months to write “Fanfare and March.” During that time, he realized he’s never written a march, which he says was a challenge.

However, the band is giving him another challenge: “They said, ‘You’re going to conduct your own piece,’ and I haven’t done that in 25 years.”

Still, he’ll face the challenge Sunday as he leads the band in “Fanfare and March.”

Previous post:

Next post: