'Radio Ramblers': Music of their lives is on the air in Yarmouth

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YARMOUTH — Steve Roy loves WYAR.

Roy, a teacher at the 317 Main community music center, has been listening to the town’s heritage radio station for years. He digs its playlists of classic tunes from the first half of the 20th century. When he’s driving on Interstate 295, he knows exactly where his car’s antenna will begin to pick up the feed.

Last year, Roy was driving around listening to the golden oldies when he had an idea that, in retrospect, seems almost obvious. He would put together a group of 317 Main students to play pop standards and Dixieland jazz from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, with the ultimate goal of recording an hour-long show for WYAR.

On Tuesday, April 22, at noon, and Thursday, April 24 at 6 p.m., WYAR 88.3 FM will broadcast that show, the culmination of three months of work from the students of one of 317 Main’s most exciting new courses, the WYAR Golden Age of Radio Ramblers.

“This is a guilty pleasure for me,” said Roy, a multi-instrumentalist who led the class and played fiddle on the recording. “I love these tunes, I love playing them, I love listening to them.”

The ensemble, which featured eight students, tackled numbers including “All of Me,” “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue,” and “Tonight You Belong to Me.”

“This group is a great example of how much fun it is playing with other people,” said Frank DeLong, a semi-retired lawyer from Cape Elizabeth who played mandolin. “When you’re playing with other musicians, when you connect with them through a piece of music, it’s kind of like having a conversation.”

Late last month, after 12 rehearsals, the group sat in a circle in the brick and stonewall basement of 317 Main and recorded the songs in one take.

WYAR personality Jim Brown served as host and sound engineer.

“It’s an interesting opportunity,” Brown said of the first-time collaboration between WYAR and 317 Main. “It’s a win-win for us and Steve’s students as well.”

It looks to be the first entry in an ongoing partnership. After its first airings, WYAR will add the show to its rotation, Roy said. And a second semester of Radio Ramblers is already underway, with several returning students and a few fresh faces on board to play a new batch of songs from radio’s heyday.

There’s something inherently cool, for amateur artists especially, about being able to hear your performance on the radio. But for most of these musicians, it was the process of making the music that will resonate longest.

Susan Wallace, a mother of four from Yarmouth, is the ensemble’s vocalist. She has been singing since age 13, but hadn’t found the time or opportunity to perform since becoming a parent. She saw a flier for the ensemble when she was dropping off her daughters for music lessons at 317 Main.

Now she can’t wait to make more music.

“The energy in the room was so positive that I couldn’t leave without feeling good,” Wallace said. “I loved meeting these people, broadening my social world and realizing there are all these great musicians out there. But most of all, this kind of lit a fire for me. It reignited my passion for music and singing.”

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or btwist@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @brendantwist.

Sidebar Elements

Bassist Wendy Cody, left, guitarist Mike Kaplan, and mandolin player John Williams prepare to record jazz and pop standards at 317 Main in Yarmouth on March 25.

Jim Brown recorded the WYAR Golden Age of Radio Ramblers on March 25 at 317 Main in Yarmouth.

The 317 Main community music center on Main Street in Yarmouth.