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DARRELL GRONEMEIRER/Olean Times Herald The brass section plays as the Allegany Alumni and Friends Band performs during Saturday night's St. Bonaventure University men's basketball game at the Reilly Center.

Playing an instrument is much like riding a bike, Lynn Brook said.

The trombone player graduated from Allegany High School in 1979 and didn't pick up her instrument for more than 20 years. But she dug her trombone out of the closet when she was asked to join the Allegany Alumni and Friends Band in 2000.

"It all comes back, but it takes a little while," Mrs. Brook said.

Her story is similar to many of the nearly 30 members of the band, which was formed by a small group of Allegany High School Alumni to play in Allegany's annual Old Home Week parade. Some of the members are semi-professional musicians, others have played in their churches or various events through the years, but some were about 20 years out of practice, said Mary Carls, trombone and baritone player and business manager with the band. The initial performance at the parade proved to be fun, Ms. Carls said.

"We had a good time and we thought we ought to keep this going," she said.

The band has since grown to include "friends," anyone who wants to join the band but isn't an alumni of Allegany High School. They have played a number of events including the Allegany Heritage Days, summer concerts in area parks, parades, festivals, churches and nursing homes. They have also been the house band for St. Bonaventure University's weekend basketball games for the past few years.

The band was originally asked to stand in for a few games.

"We were such a hit that they asked us to do all the home games," Ms. Carls said.

The schedule became a little much for the band, which now performs all of the weekend games, including last night's game against Rhode Island.

"There are quite a bit of Bonnies fans in the band," Ms. Carls said that band members have the benefit of watching the game and performing for the crowd.

The band usually begins playing 20 minutes before the game and members have noticed that some people will arrive early just to hear them. The band also plays during timeouts, during halftime and when the crowd is leaving after the game.

The band plays a variety of music, from traditional college fight songs and marches to contemporary tunes like the Steppenwolf hit "Born to be Wild." The crowd can be a bit rowdy and passionate about the game and the music helps to spur that energy, Mrs. Brook said.

"If we can help contribute to that than we have done our part," she said.

Many band members are Bonnies fans and some are even St. Bonaventure alums, band director Jason Fox said.

"We're not just a band playing," he said. "We are always rooting for the players."

Steve Mest, associate athletics director for external relations at St. Bonaventure, said a pep band at a college game is a given and the Allegany Alumni and Friends Band is a critical part of Bonnies games. Music is otherwise piped in using CDs or, sometimes, a local high school band will play.

Many fans associate the band with basketball games, Mr. Mest said.

"They connect the band with college basketball. You can hear it before you enter the doors and it gets your juices flowing a bit," he said.

The band played the St. Bonaventure alma mater, played to the tune of "Oh Tannenbaum," the first Bona game they played. It was a splash with some of the older Bona alums but didn't register with the students.

"I was shocked because a lot of the kids didn't know their own fight song," Ms. Carls said.

Many students today are used to hearing the "canned" music from CDs today featuring more contemporary music, but a pep band at a college game is tradition, she said.

"It's a lost art that people don't see much any more," Ms. Carls said.

The band is a great outlet for stress for some members as they enjoy playing music and the camaraderie of the band. Members meet the first and third Thursday of each month on the second floor of the Allegany Town Hall to practice music for upcoming performances. New members are welcome and no audition is required.

"We're like a big family," Ms. Carls said.

Some of the band members played together in the Allegany High School Band and owe their love of music, and the formation of the band, to former high school music teacher William Roosa.

"There are a lot of students of his with the Alumni and Friends Band," Ms. Carls said. "We give credit to him. He was a strict music teacher but he appreciated good music."

Mrs. Brook added, "I came away from my high school experience with an appreciation for music and we live in such a great area for that."

She noted that there are a number of community bands and performances in the area as well as a community that supports that entertainment.

The band ranges from the occasional middle or high school student to 76-year-old Virginia Baxter, a graduate of Allegany High. Ms. Baxter, a trumpet player, got away from playing her horn after she graduated from high school. She had a family and taught school around the area and didn't get back to her trumpet until about 2002.

"I lost my lip and I didn't have very much breath control," she said, adding that she played first trumpet in high school. "I play third trumpet and get the lower notes and, besides, I like to play the harmony."

The group is a service-based community group that performs for the love of making music, Mr. Fox said. The band isn't paid for performances, although it does accept donations.

And they want to pass that joy to younger generations. Many of the older members mentor the younger members, Ms. Carls said. The band has also sat in with fifth- and sixth-graders from the Allegany-Limestone district to play with and mentor the students. People like Mrs. Brook and Ms. Baxter are helpful to students they show that learning an instrument can bring joy even into adulthood, Mr. Fox said.

While practicing for gigs and performing can be hard work, the band members enjoy what they do.

"The one thing that makes us good is that we really enjoy it," Ms. Baxter said.

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