Club members form band for weekly performance
By Trey Foerster
Since January 1993, the Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club has had a song in its heart and a spring in its step.
It all started with 30 copies of the official Rotary Song Book and Rotarian Ron Reynolds, founder of the club. On Charter Night, Reynolds presented the books and ever since has been singing at meetings.
What began with Reynolds’ a cappella singing has blossomed into a full rock ‘n’ roll band with Greg Harvey on piano, Charlie Justmann on bass, Joe Jones and Eric Hendrickson on guitar, Chris Sands on drum, Paul Sletten on snare drum, Kira Morrissey on backup piano and vocals, and Reynolds with vocals.
The old songbook was discarded along the way and contemporary, classic and traditional tunes are mixed with a song selected for a holiday or tied the guest speaker’s theme. Jones picks the music and emails the lyrics and chords to the other members.
Each Wednesday morning at 6:20 a.m., the band goes over the music with the week’s selection performed for all club members and guests at 7:15 a.m.
As it was from the beginning over 22 years ago, the first song is always “Welcome to Rotary” followed by “Smile And The World Smiles With You.” The week’s chosen song is then announced by Jones, who explains how it fits in with the weekly program.
Each week the band makes its Rotary connection in a unique way that elicits reactions from moans because of Jones’ puns, to toe tapping, to singing and on occasion actual dancing. The group also pens parodies of rock classics to welcome district governors and occasional special guests.
Summer benefit concert
Each year, the Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club hosts “Waupaca’s Own Summer Benefit Concert.” The organization’s largest fundraiser grosses about $30,000.
It is also a major fundraiser for the Waupaca High School Vocal Music Department. In 2015, $4,000 has been earmarked for a new lighting console for the Waupaca High School Performing Arts Center.
Additional proceeds go toward Rotary projects such as the Rotary Youth Exchange, graduating senior scholarships, middle school Service Above Self awards and educational grants.
In 2014, educational grants provided funding for the high school to purchase solar kits, a mobile AC unit and trekking poles. The middle school purchased a 3-D printer and items for the band room. Chicken incubating supplies, level literacy intervention kits and music with Orff instruments were purchased for elementary school use.
Middle school music department
Belief in education and the importance of music in developing math and science aptitude has been an important part of Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club’s outreach to the Waupaca School District.
In the fall of 2015, the club awarded $1000 to the Waupaca Middle School Music Department. These funds were used for music department band and choir summer music camp scholarships. The department also purchased a new tuba and earmarked money for instrument repair for economically disadvantaged young musicians.
Meet the band members
A member of Rotary for 45 years, Ron Reynolds originally joined the organization because his boss, an Appleton Rotarian, thought that it would be “good for all concerned.”
“I became District 6220 Governor in 1995 and traveled to all 48 clubs at least once during my year,” Reynolds recalled. “Rotary also sent me to the International Convention in Nice, France, and Calgary, Canada.”
“When Rotary’s 100th birthday occurred,” Reynolds said, “Rotary contacted me to sing at the huge gala in Chicago. I received a
crystal award for performing on stage for two hours per day for five consecutive days during the convention at McCormick Place.”
In addition, Reynolds emceed the musical acts on the large sound stage for several hours per day.
Jones’ first contact with Rotary was as a GSE team member to district 2560 in Yokohama, Japan, in 1996.
When he returned stateside, Jones joined the Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club serving in a number of positions from membership recruitment to president.
On the district level, he served for many years as GSE chair, six years as an assistant district governor and as a committee member on various district committees. Serving as District 6220 Governor 2011-12 was one of the most enjoyable year of his life, he stressed.
“To me, Rotary is family,” Jones said. “From our breakfast club members to my District Governor Classmates, my winter Texan Rotary friends and my zone co-workers, Rotary means caring, support, giving and friendships. I especially enjoy giving back to the community, the district and the world through Rotary projects.”
Joe is exuberant every Wednesday morning as a member of the band and club resident punster.
“When I joined Rotary, Ron Reynolds would lead the club in a song from the Rotary song book at the beginning of each meeting,” Jones noted. “To liven up the song, I began bringing my guitar and joined Ron, often singing in harmony. Within a couple of months, I began introducing rock songs that fit the program, added more instrumentation and eventually ended with a eight-member group.”
Joining Rotary in 1999, Justmann served as president of the Waupaca club from 2007-08 and has been involved in serving in various positions since joining.
At an early age, Justmann was “drafted” at age 15 to play in his father’s little band. Playing with many bands over the years, he now fronts his own 10-piece The Justmann Band, which plays just about anything: Big Band music, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Latin, Country, Classical, Polkas, Dixieland and more.
If that is not enough, he also fronts a seven-piece Dixieland band called “Dixie Down”.
Like many musicians, Justmann plays a number of instruments.
A few years after joining the Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club, Joe Jones urged Charlie to join the little Rotary band.
“Since my early days in Rotary, when our membership was around 40, the band has played, entertaining our members,” Justmann recalled. “Now, only seven years later, our club has doubled in size. The band now consists of a total of eight band members, not always present.”
He noted that every band member sings at one time or another leading the group.
“The ages of people in our band ranges from late 20s to a young 80-year-old,” he said. “I sincerely believe our band plays a major part in bringing younger men and women into our club. The band brings a lot of entertainment, which makes people want to be at our meetings.”
A real impact on Justmann has been the reaction of foreign exchange students to the band.
“Even our former foreign exchange students come back to our meetings regularly when they come back to the U.S. They tell us how much they’ve enjoyed our club and the band over the years,” he said.
Recently, the club had a going away part for two foreign exchange students who were returning to their respective countries at the end of their stay.
“At their going away party, one of the exchange students who was returning to India smiled, laughed and told me he was looking forward to the Breakfast Band India Tour.
“The other exchange student who was returning to Thailand stated he was going to be looking for our band picture on the cover of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine,” Justmann said. “We all laughed but they were also excited to tell me they’d videotaped the band playing at our club’s annual banquet and were very excited to have the recording to take with them.”
Joining the Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club in October 2012 at the urging of fellow band member Chris Sands, Eric Hendrickson was immediately “drafted” into the group. He plays professionally from time to time with a couple of the other and plays multiple instruments including lead guitar.
When not playing music, Hendrickson is an attorney-at-law in Waupaca and New London.
Paul Sletten, a medical doctor, is a very recent addition to Rotary and the groupas a snare drummer.
“I couldn’t resist the temptation to break from my serious family physician role to play snare at 6:30 a.m. Wednesdays with the other community-minded, developmentally-delay adolescent musicians” and that he could still “behave like a member of my 1974 graduating class while giving back to my wonderful community,” he said after one night of his all-night Troubadour rehearsals.
Before Harvey starts his Wednesday at his dental practice, he warms up by playing the piano for the Breakfast Band. One thing you can count on him for is his fluid playing. After the morning’s practice he greets fellow Rotarians with his trademark Cheshire smile and often humorous remarks.
Joining the Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club in April 2012, Chris Sands was asked to join the band after he gave a thumbnail presentation where he discussed his avocation of playing drums in a number of area bands.
A dentist by professional, Sands was actually recruited to Rotary by his daughter Emma, who was a Rotary Youth Exchange student in Sweden at the time.
“I believe in the RYE program and the concept of making worldwide ambassadors one person at a time. Everyone involved in RYE — students, host families, schools, and their communities, here and abroad, benefit beyond measure from this program. The RYE program really lives up to the 4-way test. Every kid should go on exchange!” Chris stressed.
He also added, “Our club is a true blessing to the Waupaca community and exemplifies service above self. A great bunch of people!”
Currently Waupaca High School’s choir and band educator, Kira has marked her 15th year of owning and operating a private voice and piano instructor business.
Over those 15 years, she has taught middle and high school choirs, music theory and appreciation courses, private voice and piano and to accompany and direct a number of adult choirs and honor choirs, and direct pit orchestras for musicals.
With a bachelor’s degree in music education from Gustavus Adolphus College, Morrissey has also participated in workshops such as VoiceCare, Kindermusik, CMP, MTNA, WSMA, WCDA and the SoundStation Jazz Camp.