Started more than 50 years ago, Masonic Band plays On!

* The band of volunteers performs everything from "classical to
popular" at monthly concerts.

By: Betty Jean Miller, St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer

St. Petersburg - There was the usual cacophony of musical instruments tuning up - trills and scales and pieces of tunes mixed with the chatter of the musicians. Guests ambled in to sit in the rows of chairs and add to the good-natured banter.

The occasion was an institution of more than 50 years; the monthly Sunday afternoon concert of the Masonic Band. Formerly called the Selama Grotto Band, its members have been performing at the Masonic Home since the early 30's. Some of their early music is dated back to 1934.

Band member Dave Smith performs on the trombone

Time was when the volunteer band, founded by Frank Pickerd, played outside the Masonic Home in a band shell built and dedicated by Grand Master A. Wayne Conner in 1949. It was "hot" playing in the summer heat and often  "freezing" in the winter, and of course the wind would blow the sheet music off the music stands. The way the band shell was positioned, (facing north) the clarinet players always had the setting-sun in their eyes. When the new Masonic Home was built, the aging band shell was then torn down and the group began rehearsing and performing their public concerts in air-conditioned comfort inside the boardroom. According to conductor Les Schlafman the move inside was a great improvement for both the players and the audience.

The Masonic Home Band was formerly the Selama Grotto Band

The Selama Grotto Band performs here in the Festival of States Parade

In 1992, Selama Grotto was no longer able to sponsor the band and the name was changed to "The Masonic Band" in appreciation of their new location to both practice and perform. To be a member of the band does not require membership in any Masonic body. Interested musicians, who enjoy playing, are welcomed. The band personnel is made up of professional and amateur musicians and some are even school music teachers. Over the years many young players have perfected their skills playing with the band. Some have gone on to become professional musicians. The most recent, Becky Snyder, has been accepted into the United States Air Force Band.

Here the Masonic Home Band performs under the old band-shell at the Florida Masonic Home.

This is not just a band. This is a fraternity of musicians. Some of them may play together four or five times a week, just for the love of music. The same holds true of the members of the Masonic Home Band. The volunteers play for the love of music. Says conductor Schlafman, "We just get together and play."

Band conductor Les Schlafman cuts his 70th birthday cake.  The band surprises him with a party in the Masonic Home Cafeteria.

When You Come - The Masonic Band concerts are free and open to the public at the Masonic Home of Florida, 3201 1st Street, N.E. on the second Sunday of each month starting at 4:00 p.m. Plenty of parking is available.




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