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101-year-old leads Golden Tone Orchestra

Bob Ferrari celebrated his birthday on stage


Fifty-year Baldwin resident Bob Ferrari turned 101 last week, and he continues to direct a band made up of 21 older adults called the Golden Tone Orchestra.

Ferrari, who has headed the band for a little over two decades, said he hopes to continue leading it and making music for as long as he lives. “Music is my muse,” Ferrari said. “I’m in another world when I play my instruments.” 

Ferrari said he was raised by a musical family. He has played the flute, clarinet and saxophone from the time he was a boy. “I’ve had wonderful music teachers,” he said. “My family, music and friends all keep me going.”

Every band member has been vaccinated, and rehearsals are socially distanced and take place every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at the Cow Meadow Park in Freeport. The band has performed for various public library events in Merrick, Freeport and Oceanside. 

The original bandleader, Julius Rubinstein, appointed Ferrari to take over as director if anything happened to him. In 2000, Rubinstein died, and Ferrari assumed the position of director. 

“The best part of having a band is seeing the joy of the people we play for,” Ferrari said. 

Similar to Ferrari, many of the other band members love playing wind instruments and singing. East Northport resident Frank Benvenuto, 75, who plays the saxophone and clarinet in the band, has been involved with the mainly wind instrument group for the last 12 years and had taught instrumental music for 36 years at Stratford Avenue School in Garden City.

For as far back as Benvenuto can remember, he has played instruments and been in various bands. In addition to attending Saturday practices with the band, he practices his instruments for several hours a week on his own. “The best part of being in a band is the camaraderie, and I’ve met a lot of good friends,” he said. “Playing music makes me feel good and relaxed, and it takes my mind off the pandemic.” 

Nine-year band member Herb Deutsch, 89, of Massapequa Park, said he has played the trumpet for 70 years, and the piano for nearly his entire life. He married a pianist, taught on the Hofstra University music faculty and was the chair of the music faculty there for nearly five decades.

“I joined the band to give me a reason to play even more,” he said.

“Playing music makes me feel satisfied, and it takes my mind off of pandemic-related things and the ways of the world,” noted West Hempstead another resident Philip Fontana, 65, who is Ferrari’s nephew. “Making music is like socializing without talking…. It’s one way I can fully express myself.” 

“This band is my main support,” said the band’s vocalist, Merrick resident Barbara Hausen, 84. “Singing makes me feel free, happy and nostalgic.” 

Though the band is composed primarily of older adults, it is open to anyone of any age.