Crossing The Gap For Mardi Gras

TUESDAY, FEB. 28, 1995

The generation gap was about 15 feet Friday.

A big band-style jazz ensemble from Mead High had come to the Corbin Community Center to play for an audience of senior citizens.

The event was the annual Mardi Gras party. “Our goofiness,” said Carolyn Bryan, director of the center, a dark brick building that used to be a Methodist church on a quiet corner of Lincoln and Cleveland.

“Love your costume, Carolyn,” said one of the 50 people having chicken gumbo and red beans and rice for lunch.

Bryan wore an outlandish tufted Mardi Gras mask over the top half of her face and a jester-like purple shoulder drape over her yellow shirt.

A few others, also getting a head start on Fat Tuesday, were similarly attired. “People enjoy it,” said Bryan.

By the time the band arrived and started setting up on the small dance floor next to the dining room, just about everyone in the eating area was working on an almond-cherry torte (low-fat recipe on account of it being “Heart Smart Week” at the center).

No wall separated the impossibly youthful 20-piece band and the lunch crowd. But at first the two groups hardly seemed to notice one another.

And when pink-clad program coordinator Shirley Whitman mistook some peppy warm-up notes for the beginning of the program and released a few dozen balloons from a bag suspended from the ceiling above the band, a few expressions seemed to say, “Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea.”

It didn’t help that the balloon bag then drooped and got momentarily tangled on the upright bass.

A few of the seniors cut out to play bridge. Others remembered various things they had to do.

But most stayed. And when it really was time for the music to start, Scott Jones, the teacher in charge of the teenage musicians, proved a cheerful master of ceremonies.

The band was decent, performing recognizable renditions of numbers such as “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Caravan.” And the applause and foot-tapping seemed sincere.

Still, there was this distance. It was as if the kids and the audience just weren’t, well, connecting.

Then, for just a moment, the gulf vanished. A tall boy who had just finished a fine saxophone solo glanced up and made fleeting eye contact with a white-haired woman in lavender who was clapping and smiling. His sheepish reaction couldn’t hide his pleasure.

Let the good times roll.


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