- Associated Press - Sunday, April 30, 2017

LOGANSPORT, Ind. (AP) - The soothing melody of “The Tennessee Waltz” rang through the halls of the Woodbridge Health Campus on Thursday afternoon, courtesy of Marvin Dillman and Al Rodriguez.

While they played, the two musicians closed their eyes, as if they were playing for an audience of one.

The two met earlier this year at Woodbridge when Dillman, 89, was on short-term rehabilitation. Rodriguez, 88, is a long-term Woodbridge resident. The two men shared a lunch table one day and eventually their love of music became their bond.

Brandy Rodabaugh, community service representative at Woodbridge, remembered what it was like in the beginning.

“One day I heard this music,” she said, “and I wondered what it was. So I walked in, and I saw Marvin with his fiddle and Al with his guitar. They had just found a common interest and just started playing.”

And though their journeys were different, it was the passion for music that bonded them.

Rodriguez got his first guitar when he was a 14-year-old kid living in Mexico City. It was a gift from his uncle. The next year, Rodriguez received a scholarship to attend a music school in Morelia, Mexico. There he studied subjects like music theory and composition.

He eventually found his way to the United States and to Indiana, where he taught the next generation how to feel the music like he could. And that’s what he did for nearly 60 years, whether through lessons at the Cass County Family YMCA or at local music stores.

These days, Rodriguez’s fingers won’t let him play the guitar like he used to, but that hasn’t stopped the desire to play.

“Music is powerful,” he said. “It makes my soul feel good.”

Dillman, like Rodriguez, also caught the musical bug at an early age. He was given his grandfather’s fiddle when he was 12 years old, and he bought his first guitar from a Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog when he was a sophomore in high school.

“The strings were so far off (the guitar), you could almost slip your fingers under them,” he said, laughing.

But it wasn’t until his junior year that he learned how to really play either instrument.

“We had a school orchestra, and the music teacher told me she heard I had a violin,” he said. “I said I did but didn’t know how to play it. So she told me if I brought it in, she’d teach me how.”

Dillman ended up taking two years of violin lessons from that music teacher, but he said he didn’t play much after graduation.

Flash forward to 1979. Dillman, a Twelve Mile resident, was at the local Fourth of July lawnmower race up in Twelve Mile, and they had a talent show beforehand. A lady Dillman knew named Phyllis Johnson was a schoolteacher in the area and knew how to play the piano.

“They approached her to see if she could maybe get something stirred up for an act for a variety show,” Dillman said, “so she contacted me and a few others. So we got together and everybody wanted us to keep playing. The same thing happened in 1980, so we formed the ‘Over the Hill Gang.’ “

The group played together for 32 years, Dillman said. And though most of the members have since passed away, Dillman said he still has fond memories of those times and the people he met along the way.

“Your friends that you grew up with are like a big family,” he said. “And now they’re gone. And they keep saying, ‘why don’t you get another group?’ but their music is entirely different. I think Al probably feels the same way. It’s like losing a part of you when you lose the people you used to play with.”

And perhaps that’s why it means so much that they found each other.

Because that’s the power of music, Dillman and Rodriguez said. Whether it makes you happy or sad, sorrowful or excited, the men said music moves people in mysterious ways.

“Music is international,” Dillman said. “I don’t care where you’re at. Music can change people’s attitudes, good or bad. I play simple music, and people seem to have gotten completely away from that something simple.”

Rodriguez agreed, saying music has always had the ability to change lives.

“Music, it’s a very powerful thing for people,” he said, smiling.

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Source: (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune, https://bit.ly/2oo5mu9

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Information from: Pharos-Tribune, https://www.pharostribune.com


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