A retired chemist’s musical activities

Date

04/09/18

The following, written by Illinois chemistry alumnus Ron Archer (PhD, ’59, Bailar), originally appeared in the March 2018 edition of the American Chemical Society’s Newsletter for Senior Chemists. It is reproduced here in its entirety.


Ronald D. Archer did his undergraduate education in Physical Science and Mathematics Education and his MS in Chemistry Education, both at Illinois State University. After two years in the Army, he attended the University of Illinois for his PhD in Chemistry. Most of his academic career was spent as a Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Since retirement, he has engaged in many activities and has written the following article about some of them. He recently completed 36 years as a Councilor of the Connecticut Valley Section.

Four years after I retired as a chemistry professor, I decided to pick up my old Selmer clarinet and play in the Alumni Marching Band for the Illinois State University homecoming parade for 2003, the 50th anniversary of my BS Degree there. Several months later when I was being inducted into the Rotary Club of Amherst, my mentor noted my participation at said parade. Another member, A. P. Stevens, came up to me a few minutes later and said, “Ron, we need clarinet players in the Senior Concert Band of Western Massachusetts.”  I had never heard of this band, which was started in Holyoke and practiced in the War Memorial Building in Holyoke. A.P. organized a carpool that took participants from Amherst to the Monday afternoon practices. We had very few performances that year, one at the Holyoke State Veterans Home and one at a Catholic Elementary School that didn’t have a music program due to budget problems.
 

So, one day I commented to the clarinet player sitting next to me that I didn’t mind practicing every Monday but it would be nice to be playing more gigs.  He replied “You should join the Melha Shriners Military Band." We play in parades most weekends from St. Patrick’s Day (2 in Worcester and Holyoke) to Veteran’s Day in November. We practice on Tuesday evenings at the Shriner Center in Springfield.”  I drove to a practice session and learned the following week would be the Shriners Circus weekend that would mean a parade on Thursday and five concerts for the band: two on Friday, two Saturday, and one Sunday. Since it is a Shriner band, we wear a Fez and special band uniforms. The band owns a trailer, so aging members don’t have to walk in the parades. We do have to compete with clowns and bagpipe units for attention at parades. I’m very active in the band and am currently both the secretary and treasurer.

I’m also the vocal soloist for “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You” for the annual Melha Shriner Memorial Service for widows and families of deceased Shriners. The band plays several numbers during that service.

The band is not attracting enough new players to replace those who move away or die. The main problems are cold weather in March and November, aging members, and poor recruitment. Meanwhile, the Senior Concert Band has matured into a vibrant unit with about 40 amateur and professional retired musicians. We have played concerts at the Boston State House, several community senior centers, Holyoke, and other Farmers Markets, etc.

I’ve also been active in the Immanuel Lutheran Church choir for more than 50 years.  That was the only musical activity I did while being a chemistry professor.

During January, I play taps on my clarinet on the beach in Boca Grande. I originally did it as a joke after the conch player they had moved away, but they liked it so much that I’ve done it every year when I’m down there. This year, I fractured my hip a few days before I was to go so my daughter played a recording of it to them instead! 

Prior to fracturing my hip, for more than four years I’ve been an almost full-time caregiver for my significant other, Margery Roy. I’m also involved with other volunteer activities.

 

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