SALEM — Lori Dressler vividly remembers the day in first grade when a music teacher put a half-size violin in her arms.
She practiced willingly through elementary, middle and high school, until her full-size instrument needed repairs that her family couldn't afford.
The cracked violin sat in a closet for 20 years while Dressler got on with her life: marriage, five kids, homeschooling. Finally, her husband, knowing how she missed playing, had the violin repaired, and Dressler fell in love with music again.
It's a story told with variations throughout the Salem Pops Orchestra, where Dressler now plays. The group is one of several local opportunities for adults to rediscover music or turn a career as professional musician into a hobby.
"I can play on my own — that is fun — but to be in a group that makes this amazing sound together, it's glorious," said Dressler on Monday, as the Pops warmed up at Walker Middle School. "It gives you chills to have it come together."
Her fellow musicians include a retired circuit court judge, Dick Barber, on saxophone; LeRoy Judd, who lugged a French horn across Africa during his missionary career; Bill Cassell, who played trombone with the U.S. Marine Band; and Sprague High sophomore Adam Hulett, who joined the Pops on his trumpet teacher's advice.
"It's fun," said Hulett, who plays in two bands at his own school, often rising at 5:30 a.m. "You can talk to people and ask questions."
Plus, he added, the extra rehearsal time helps build the endurance (aka "chops") he needs.
Cellist Louise Putman related how the Salem Pops welcomed her back to music after years away to teach and raise her family. She's in her 49th year with the Pops.
"It's nice to be able to give something back to the community," she said, noting that the orchestra gives concerts at the Historic Elsinore Theatre and awards college scholarships to youth.
Jim Herzog, a retired engineer, said he picked up the trombone in 1975 after a gap of about 13 years. He keeps busy not only with the Pops, but with the Willamette Valley Concert Band, the Reconstituted Monmouth-Independence Band, and occasional gigs at local churches. "You meet a cross-section of people," he said. "It's not like anything else in life when so many people come together."
How does one get back into shape after a gap of years or decades? "Just play," is the consensus of local band leaders.
John Skelton, Salem Concert Band director, noted that CDs now help beginners learn by playing along. Computer programs prompt returning musicians to recall fingerings and get their embrochures back into shape.
Skelton's band requires prospective players to audition, but it's an informal process, he said.
"Beyond that, the Keizer Community Band and the Marion County Citizens Band are great (nonauditioned) groups," he said. "They are a wonderful, supportive way to get back into playing."
Ike Nail, associate music professor at Western Oregon University, is such a fan of adult music-making that he took over the Pops when longtime director Larry Harrington stepped down last year. Like all the band members, he's a volunteer.
"I've always felt (adult music) is the center of my efforts in music," Nail said.
"Music is a lifetime pursuit. Whether you're a professional or not, music fills a need in the human psyche and spirit that nothing else does."