Big Band of the Week – The Goldenaires

The people we call senior citizens used to sometimes be known as golden agers; therefore, the name of this all-senior-citizen big band is The Goldenaires. The band is over thirty years old and based in Columbia. When reed man Al Caldwell began directing the band in 2010 they had mostly one-page charts, some with only a few lines of music. Caldwell started getting real big band charts on a level they could play. He says that their repertoire consists of music from the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, “the stuff that people in retirement communities grew up with.” Caldwell, whose main instrument is clarinet, is featured on the Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman numbers. The band plays three to four retirement community gigs per year and Caldwell says they don’t want more. When I interviewed him in May The Goldenaires had three upcoming gigs on their calendar, in Montgomery, Carroll and Anne Arundel counties.

Caldwell was a band director in Howard County Schools for 33 years. He had a big band every year at Clarksville Middle School, one so popular that non-musicians approached him in the halls to ask to be in the band. Caldwell proudly states that a few of his former students are now band directors in Howard County. After retirement, Caldwell was on the road for six years with In the Mood, a New York City-based band with six singers. In addition to directing The Goldenaires, Caldwell plays in the Don Arnold Big Band and Jerry Peterson Big Band.

The Goldenaires rehearse every Wednesday from 11:30 to 2. Most members are retired, and they include three former band directors, as well as doctors, dentists and a pharmacist. All proceeds from paid gigs go to music and equipment purchases.

Caldwell says that he has experienced “the thrill of taking a band from not knowing a whole lot and turning it into a real big band.”

This article continues our series on area big bands — if you missed any of them, you can catch them here at Big Band of the Week.