Give Now

St. Charles Parent Band: Picking Up Where They Left Off

Is music-making valuable only when pursued toward virtuosity? The St. Charles Parent Band revels in its amateur status, yet nudges members toward improvement.

Guitarists Cindy Berin, John Fox, and Kathleen McConahay go through their set list with Kathy Romy at the keyboard.

There’s a general understanding in contemporary American culture about playing a musical instrument. You do it when you’re a kid. Whether you like it or not. You take some piano lessons or you sign up for band or you sing in the choir. Until you don’t have to anymore. Except for the really talented kids—they might go on to music school and pursue a life of concertizing. But in Bloomington, Indiana, home of one of the nation’s premier conservatories, some people making music are on an entirely different trajectory. They’re neither children, nor virtuosi, but every Monday night, they get together just a few blocks down the street from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music to pick up where they left off.

“My saxophone was in the attic for 30 years. I just got [it] out and I think I remembered how to put it together. There are only three pieces so you can’t go that wrong. It took me a while to remember how to play it.”

–St. Charles Parent Band saxophonist Steve Perry

Every Monday evening, The St. Charles Parent Band gets together in the music room at the parochial K-8 school to rehearse for one of its half-a-dozen annual appearances.  They tend to headline at school festivals and nursing homes.  Members of the band all have dayjobs, and some hadn’t played in decades before joining the group.  Describing itself as “an eclectic ensemble of musician parents who wish to embarrass their kids and cover some rock, jazz, country and blues tunes,” the band takes a humble, yet determined approach to music-making.  Founded by former St. Charles School music director Josh Lehigh in 2009, the band has served as a welcoming incubator of musicianship for its members.

“I’m not sure I’d be playing if it wasn’t such an easy entrance into a band.”

–St. Charles Parent Band bassist Mark McConahay

The band accepts musicians at all levels, from those who’ve never taken a lesson to those who haven’t picked up their instrument since high school, to those who mostly fool around at home. Although the atmosphere is welcoming, and the players self-deprecating, the attitude is serious when it comes to learning.  As the bandmates joke and bond, they tackle musical territory beyond their  comfort zone, that nudges them on to the next level of playing.

“I just would play rock at home, or blues.  Those are just standard time signatures, where now we’re playing a lot of Latin rhythms, a lot of jazz that has crazy changes, so it gets me out to do things I wouldn’t normally do.”

–St. Charles Parent Band guitarist John Fox

Members of the band cite numerous motivations for playing with the group, from the camaraderie, to the “glamour,” as one jokes.  It’s an opportunity for “me time,” a way to model lifelong learning for the kids, and an opportunity to express oneself musically and feel the joy that comes with it, others suggest.  Despite the unassuming culture of the Parent Band–or possibly because of it–the members agree that the band has been a place to grow as musicians.

“I played a lot before, but to actually come in here and learn things that I didn’t know. That’s been one of those things that’s really a lot of fun–to say, yeah, I can actually do something that I couldn’t before.  It is a growth thing, and I really do enjoy that.”

–Steve Perry

Event Information

St. Charles Parent Band at Hawktoberfest

A performance by the St. Charles Parent Band at the school's annual fundraiser.

St. Charles School, 2224 E 3rd St, Bloomington, IN 47401

Saturday, October 22, 2016, 6-7 pm


Yaël Ksander

WFIU's Arts Desk Editor, Yaël seeks out and shepherds the stories of artists, musicians, writers, and other creative people. In addition, Yaël co-hosts A Moment of Science, writes essays for A Moment of Indiana History, produces Speak Your Mind (WFIU's guest editorial segment), hosts music and news hours throughout the week, and lends her voice to everything from accounting courses to nature documentaries. Yaël holds a MFA in painting from Indiana University, an MA in art history from Columbia University, and a BA from the University of Virginia, where she studied languages and literature.

View all posts by this author »

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media Arts & Music:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

Search Arts and Music

Stay Connected

RSS e-mail itunes Facebook Twitter Flickr YouTube

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media Arts & Music:

Recent Popular Music Stories

Popular Music Events RSS icon

More Events »Submit Your Event »

Arts & Music is on Twitter

Find Us on Facebook

This Week on Earth Eats

Oysters On The Half Shell Are Actually Saving New York’s Eroding Harbor

More than 70 New York City restaurants are pouring their discarded shells into the Billion Oyster Project, through which students recycle and transform them into healthy reefs in once-toxic waters.

Read more »

Earth Eats is a podcast, radio program and blog of the freshest news and recipes inspired by local food and sustainable agriculture.

More from Earth Eats »

This Week on Focus on Flowers

Dead Nettles

Plants with common names that are not so pretty should not deter us from using them in our gardens.

Read more »

Focus on Flowers is a weekly program about flower gardening hosted by master gardener Moya Andews.

More from Focus on Flowers »