The Ramblers members, from the left, Bob Harris, 81, of Sterling Heights; Sara Scrivano, 79, of Warren; Fran Badalamente, 83, of Clinton Township; Judy Thorne, 79, of Warren; and Mike Nosis, 71, of St. Clair Shores, rehearse with the rest of the band — drummer Art Dries, of St. Clair Shores, and trumpeter Jack Wolek, of Roseville — from 9 to 11 a.m. on Tuesdays at Warren’s Stilwell Manor senior apartments.
WARREN — It was 10:15 a.m. on a Tuesday in August, and the Ramblers were in the middle of a short break at Warren’s Stilwell Manor senior apartments. All but two of the key players were there.
Performing as a four-piece — without drummer Art Dries, of St. Clair Shores, and trumpeter Jack Wolek, of Roseville — the band was about halfway through its weekly practice time when it jumped right into a rousing version of songwriter Bobby Troup’s 1946 classic “Route 66.”
The chemistry among the assembled lifelong musicians was immediately obvious. The original senior band that later became the Ramblers was formed in 1991 by Virginia Kosarek. The Ramblers rehearsed at Warren’s Ridgewood Community Center, the Owen Jax Recreation Center and the Warren Community Center on Arden before they moved over to Stilwell. The group pulls its material from the Great American Songbook, classics from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, polkas, waltzes, show tunes and big band hits.
Sara Scrivano, 79, of Warren, is the only remaining original member from the senior citizen band that started in 1991. She plays the piano with the Ramblers and also runs the Jam Band that rehearses at Stilwell on Tuesdays.
“I got a degree in music from Wayne State in 1985,” Scrivano said. “It was after I raised my kids. When they started kindergarten, I started back to school, one class at a time. It took me 12 years to get my music degree part time.”
Scrivano started playing the piano when she was 4 years old. Prior to her employment with the Warren Parks and Recreation Department, she worked as a part-time music therapist and volunteered with the Warren Cultural Commission, where she helped bring live music to senior residences and nursing homes. She joined the Ramblers about a week after the band started in the spring of 1991 and was also the accompanist for the original Heart of the Hills Players choral group.
“I’ve lost so many good friends over the years, but I have so many great memories,” Scrivano said.
Judy Thorne, 79, of Warren, the current director of the Ramblers, started playing the accordion when she was 7 years old. She joined the band about 25 years ago.
“It’s a great thing to do with your time. It’s been a wonderful retirement for me,” Thorne said of her long stint with the Ramblers. “I like to work out a song. I love to think about what I’m doing. I love playing music and working with other musicians. We’ve had some wonderful musicians through the years.”
Thorne said the accordion remains the only instrument she’s ever wanted to play.
“I just love the feel of it, because you can get so many nuances of sound with it,” she explained. “You can put your whole heart and soul into it. It’s a beautiful instrument in many ways. I play polkas. I play lots of stuff. I used to stand up with it all the time. I can’t anymore.”
Bassist Bob Harris, 81, of Sterling Heights, spent 20 years recording, traveling the land and performing with his band, the Kings 4.
“I played the Governor’s Ball. I played Vegas, Tropicana in 1964. I’ve worked big venues with big names, you know? Jerry Lee Lewis, all over the place,” Harris said. “I played with Dolly Parton’s uncle for a while in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.”
Harris said he enjoys playing swing music, and he used to play in the Rhythmics Big Band that also meets at Stilwell. Throughout his career, he said he’s done a bit of everything.
“I’ve been everywhere. I mean, a long time, all kinds of venues. My son plays with Carlos Santana,” Harris added. Of the Ramblers, he said, “These guys are wonderful. She’s (Thorne) like my sister.”
Mike Nosis, 71, of St. Clair Shores, plays both clarinet and saxophone. He started with the clarinet when he was 12 and going to school in Detroit. The great Benny Goodman was his idol.
“I was a classically trained clarinetist,” Nosis said. “My mother wanted me to play violin, and my sister wanted me to play saxophone. We decided on the clarinet. I don’t know how that happened. It was a good instrument for me. I love it. It’s a beautiful instrument, actually.”
Nosis was in the U.S. Navy Band after he left school during the Vietnam War. These days, he still loves playing classical music and jazz.
“Classical music, you can’t make a living unless you play with a symphony, and straight-ahead jazz, they pay you the minimum,” Nosis said. He added that he’s finally learning to play the violin.
Fran Badalamente, 83, of Clinton Township, the group’s vocalist, said she was a proud homemaker who always put her family first. While she’s always loved singing, she didn’t perform with a group until her daughter entered middle school.
“I was thrilled, finally doing something I loved,” Badalamente said. “I’ve loved music all my life. It’s always been there.”
Years ago, she sang “The Yellow Rose of Texas” for former first lady Barbara Bush when Bush visited Rochester Hills. Lately, Badalamente’s daughter has helped to care for Badalamente’s husband while Badalamente performs with the Ramblers.
“This I will not let go,” Badalamente said.
The Ramblers rehearse and welcome listeners at Stilwell Manor 9-11 a.m. Tuesdays. The band is currently closed for new members, but the group is still available for hire. To inquire about a booking, call Judy Thorne at (586) 756-4825.
The Rhythmics Big Band meets at Stilwell Manor, 26600 Burg Road in Warren, 1:15-3:15 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. To inquire about booking the band or membership, call director Jerry Hubbard at (586) 703-8423.
The Jam Band gathers to play at Stilwell Manor 11:15 a.m.-1:15 p.m. Tuesdays. For more information about the band, call Sara Scrivano at (586) 574-1816.