Toes tapped, chins bobbed, and smiles lit up the faces of more than 100 Lifelong Learning participants Friday as they listened to the music of the Cottonwood River Band at Wolgemuth Music Education Center in Hillsboro. The listeners came from all over Marion County, and some from adjoining counties, to hear the locally connected band.
The Durham-Hillsboro-Tampa based band members Delayne Herbel, Vince and Julie Jantz, Richard Dirks, and Tim Deiner played and sang county-style gospel and bluegrass songs ranging from “Amazing Grace” to “Put Another Log on the Fire,” much to the delight of those in attendance.
Herbel (guitar and vocalist) and Deiner (guitar and melodica player) work at Countryside Feeds in Hillsboro. Vince (bass guitar and backup vocalist) and Julie (lead vocalist) Jantz own Jantz Construction of Tampa, and Dirks (harmonica player) is retired, living in Hillsboro.
“This group was just great. They were so much fun,” said Lifelong Learning Director Connie Isaac. “The words they sang were so fitting and the crowd really seemed to enjoy it.”
Isaac, who has kept track of membership attendance through her 20-years of involvement with the Lifelong organization, knew ahead of time that this group would be a hit with her usual crowd.
“I have this amazing Access database that my husband helped me set up years ago that I can use to record how many people attend what type of programs,” she said. “I also use it to keep track of program ideas and have over 16,000 names of people to contact with interesting talents. They really come out for the fun acts.”
John Dick of Hillsboro said he joined the Lifelong Learning group as a member just this past year and was really enjoying the variety of programming.
“Connie just does a great job of bringing in worthwhile entertainment,” he said. “I think it is the wide variety of programs that she coordinates that keep people coming back.”
Lifelong Learning has members from Florence, Marion, Ramona, Newton, Goessel, and Buhler, as well as several other towns, including Hillsboro where sessions are held almost each week through the spring months.
“After 20 years of doing this, I think we will be cutting back from 16 to 12 sessions next year,” Isaac said. “It takes a lot of my time, probably because I love to talk with everyone so much, but I am getting to the age where I would like some time off.”
Isaac is the backbone of the Lifelong programming, producing brochures, organizing events, and sending out invitations on her own. She gets a small stipend from Tabor College for her work, but said volunteering was an important part of her life.
“I believe very strongly that even in retirement you should still do what you can to make a difference,” she said. “I have always enjoyed bringing people together and keep my eyes open for good entertainment and programs.”
Isaac said she had several members of the Cottonwood River Band in her database because they were Tabor College alumni. Although the group had only been together for several years, someone who had heard them recommended them highly.
Dick said he knew many of the members, he just had no idea they were so musically inclined.
“I’ve known Vince Jantz was a builder in the area, but never knew he played the bass guitar,” Dick said. “And Tim Deiner — it was fun seeing familiar people doing something like this. I had no idea.”
LaVerne Richert, who came from Buhler with her husband Herb for Friday’s program, said she would not have missed the group for anything.
“We have been regular members for many years,” Richert said. “Isaac just goes out of her way to bring in the best entertainment. This was so much fun. They made everyone laugh. These programs are certainly worth the drive.”
Lifelong Learning sessions are over for the season, but Isaac said she was already confirming acts for the coming year.
“I’ve got more ideas than I’ll ever be able to use,” she said. “I really try to focus on bringing in a variety of entertainment for the area. It is a good way for all of us to broaden our horizons.”