SHELBINA, Mo. -- Local musicians who haven't picked up their instruments in years are flocking to Shelbina twice a month to take part in a newly formed community band.
The band recently was launched through the efforts of several current and former band directors who wanted to give adult and teen musicians from the Shelby County area an opportunity to play with a group.
Michelle Ratley, who spent 28 years as a music teacher and band director in California and now operates a quilt shop in Shelbina, is one of the organizers. She said 18 people showed up for the band's first rehearsal Aug. 12.
"Since then, it's more than doubled in size," she said.
Ratley, who serves as the band's conductor, said more musicians keep stepping forward to participate after learning of the band's existence.
"We knew it was going to take a while to get the word out," she said.
Ratley has been actively recruiting new members.
For instance, she recently talked up the band with one former musician "while he was in a corn silo," she said with a laugh.
She also recalled running into a percussionist in a local grocery store and urging him to join the band.
"Then I went two aisles over, and there was a clarinetist," she said. "I mean, it was like I was shopping at the grocery store for musicians."
Ratley said it's been pretty easy to convince people to join the band because many former musicians are delighted to get an opportunity to take their instruments out of storage and perform with an organized group for the simple joy of making music.
"It gets under their skin," she said. "When you play an instrument, when you belong to an ensemble and you're making music, you're part of a large group communicating together and experiencing the same emotions," she said.
Ratley said many of the musicians who joined the band told themselves something along the lines of: "Gosh, I really miss that connection, that ability to create and just hang out with some goofy other people."
The band holds hour-long rehearsals at 4:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Sunday of each month in the South Shelby High School's band room. The rehearsals are open to anyone.
"And they don't have to be Shelby County residents," Ratley said, noting how musicians from Macon and beyond have been taking part. "If there are people over there in Quincy who may want to come over" they are welcome as well, Ratley said.
She said the band is making plans to perform a public concert at 4 p.m. Dec. 9, at Hawkins Theatre, a performance and event venue in Shelbina.
"You've got to have a goal," Ratley said. "You've got to have a reason to get together other than just playing and having fun."
She said the musical selections trotted out for the first rehearsal sessions have included "a variety of levels of music" to get people accustomed to playing their instruments again.
"We're trying to get everyone's chops back in shape and not be too painful," she said.
Some of the most experienced musicians, however, have natural talent and don't need much prepping.
"Nowhere have I found such a saturation of musical talent at this level as I have in this part of the country," Ratley said. "It's phenomenal. You don't have that everywhere."
Ratley said the band has been attracting a wide range of ages as well, from a high school student fluent with the bassoon to a variety of players in the upper-age levels.
"We don't want to call them ‘older,' " she said. "They're ‘life-experienced' performers in their 70s and 80s, but they've still got it. Their chops are great."
More information about the band is available by calling Ratley at 573-588-7000.