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Back with the band

The Second Time Arounders heed marching orders.

By WAVENEY ANN MOORE
Published March 28, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG -- For a quarter of a century, they have gathered from points near and far to make music with a unique marching band.

From as far away as Orlando and even Miami, the St. Petersburg-based band has attracted an assortment of married couples, pastors, attorneys, teachers, retirees and other adults with a passion for music and a yearning to belong to a band once again.

Hence the name: the Greater St. Petersburg Area Awesome Original Second Time Arounders Marching Band.

Unintentionally, perhaps, the name hints at the band's quirkiness and size. At one time, its ranks swelled to about 500, drawing participants in their late teens to nonagenarians. Band mother Aileen Chapman, who will turn 100 this year, played until three years ago. This year's group is about 300 strong.

Its uniqueness is part of the Second Time Arounders' appeal, said band director and co-founder Bill Findeison.

"People get a kick out of us. They see themselves in us," he said.

The band will get a chance to win new fans this year. As it's done for the past 24 years, it will perform at St. Petersburg's annual Festival of States. This year, though, the band is taking its robust presence to new venues.

They'll perform at Sunday's opening ceremony of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, hoping to garner national exposure on ESPN as they play the national anthem.

In a matter of days, the band also should know whether it has been picked to march in next year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The musicians, who have played at such places as Walt Disney World and Epcot, have just returned from wowing crowds in Savannah, Ga., where they were part of one of the nation's largest St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

"It was incredible," said David Glass, a lieutenant with St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue.

"I've got to say this was the best parade experience I've ever had. The crowd was just so enthusiastic. It was magic," said Glass, who has been a member of the band for 23 years and whose sister, Mary Ann Baldoquin, travels from Miami to play as well.

The Rev. Mike Wetzel, pastor of Island Chapel on Tierra Verde and a trumpet player, chuckled when he recalled returning from Savannah at 1 a.m. on a Sunday. He still preached at the 8 and 10 a.m. services.

With their busy schedules, the Second Time Arounders are on a five-week rehearsal schedule for their annual spring performances. As such, these folks don't dawdle.

One recent Tuesday they gathered at the St. Petersburg Coliseum for a 7 p.m. rehearsal. Open instrument cases, many lined with velvet, quickly accumulated on tables near the walls. Some people were arriving from work. Glass, the lieutenant, was in uniform.

Dr. Lynne Ellis, a pediatrician in St. Petersburg, was on call. She broke away shortly after rehearsal to take a telephone call about a child. Ellis, who plays the alto saxophone, has been a part of the band for 15 years. She once considered majoring in music.

Early in the night, JoAnn McElhaney, 76, who plays the tenor saxophone, wore a sandwich board advertising a spaghetti dinner fundraiser. She joined the band in 1988 after learning about it from Findeison's father at a Seminole church. "I went down for a rehearsal and just fell in love," she said. Her husband, Kerry, 76, plays the cymbals.

Tom Gajentan, 58, a Seminole resident, is another longtimer. He's been with the band for 19 years. At one time, his wife, Joanne, and their two daughters Kara and Katrina, and his sister, Susan Bingham, all played in the band, said Gajentan, a codes investigator for the city of St. Petersburg.

Archie Thompson, 72, who retired as a driver's education teacher from St. Petersburg High School, joined the Second Time Arounders just 10 years ago.

"I saw them in the parade and I liked what they were doing," said Thompson, who plays the saxophone.

Findeison co-founded the band in 1983 with then-Festival of States director Herb Melleney. During a recent rehearsal, his raised baton and authoritative voice brought silence to a room that seconds earlier had been echoing with a cacophony of tuning instruments and friends greeting one another.

"We have so much to do," he told them. "This is the last rehearsal inside. Next week, we're going to be outside."

That cool evening only the auxiliary, made up of majorettes, the rifles, flags and letter carriers, worked outside, practicing on the Coliseum's parking lot.

Though the practice season is short, a volunteer board works year-round, said Roger Green, associate band director. The Meadowlawn Middle School guidance counselor has been part of the Second Time Arounders since its inception. A former middle and high school band director, he was Findeison's student at Lakewood High School.

"We've known each other for 40 years and we still talk to and rely on each other," said Green, 56, who plays the trumpet.

There is great admiration for the man who has kept the band going for 25 years.

"Bill has a tremendous passion for music and for putting groups together," said Wetzel, the pastor. "He also knows how to relate to a big group. He's able to make it fun and he's able to relate to having instrumentalists of all ranges."

"The beauty is we meet each other as human beings," Findeison said. "Everyone gets along."

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at 727 892-2283 or moore@sptimes.com.

 

Stepping it up

Performances of the Greater St. Petersburg Area Awesome Original Second Time Arounders Marching Band:

GRAND PRIX WEEKEND

Fast Friday: 7 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Central Avenue and Third Street, St. Petersburg.

Opening ceremony: 1:45 p.m. Sunday. Scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN.

FESTIVAL OF STATES

Night Parade: 8 p.m. April 13, followed by a concert in front of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 11 Central Ave. St. Petersburg.

. strike up the band

Care to join?

To join, go to the Web site www.secondtimearounders.com

WHERE THE BAND HAS PERFORMED

St. Petersburg and around the Tampa Bay area

Portland, Ore.

Walt Disney World

Epcot

San Antonio, Texas

Dublin, Ireland

Key West

Savannah, Ga.

. the man, the music

Bill Findeison, 65

Band director: - Lakewood High School, 1966-1978 - Second Time Arounders, 1983-present

Owner: Bringe Music Center for 24 years

Education: Master's degree in music from Florida State University

Hometown: Born in Philadelphia, grew up in St. Petersburg