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Published: April 19, 2024

George playing saxophone Kendal at Oberlin is home to more than 300 men and women in their 60s and well beyond. They come from near (Oberlin and Cleveland) and far (Hawaii, Canada and elsewhere). The residents share many common values, such as sustainability and lifelong learning, and many have ties to Oberlin College. But each resident has his or her own unique story.

Meet George Cyphers.

Ask George how he’s doing in retirement and he’s likely to reply: “I worked 46 years to get to do what I wanted to do when I was 9 – play music.”

Boy, is he. George plays clarinet and saxophone in a variety of settings – two area bands, one Kendal band that he started, weekly music dates with other Kendal musicians and daily practices of his own is his den/music room, but just between the hours of 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. so as not to disturb neighbors.

Oh, also in gigs that pop up, like a local high school’s recent spring production of “Bye Bye Birdie” that needed a woodwind musician.

Kendal and Oberlin College’s rich musical environment were certainly a draw for George, who moved to Kendal in 2020 from nearby Summit County. But the pandemic and his wife’s death in 2018 made the transition difficult.

Now, though, you could say George’s life is “pitch perfect.”

“I’m satisfied with the balance of what I’m doing,” he says, adding “I’ve come full circle.”

Music gigs off campus

Watching jazz clarinetist Pete Fountain play on “The Lawrence Welk Show” launched George’s passion for playing. Yes, he dreamed of making music his career – “I was unsuccessful, I needed to make money” but he never stopping playing, be it church or civic bands, while he was working and raising a family.

Now George plays clarinet and saxophone (tenor, alto, soprano) with Blue Fiasco, a jazz quintet that performs at restaurants, wineries and breweries on the east side of Cleveland. The band bills itself as playing “60s, 70s, 80s and 90s classic rock reimagined as jazz” or as 77-year-old George says, “songs we fell in love to.”

In December George brought the band to “Klub Kendal” for an evening of dancing and entertainment. “You will not play for a more appreciative audience,” George told his band mates, and he was right.

“People were up and dancing and singing along. It was a fantastic evening,” says Kathy Caldwell, who organized the event.

George also plays with Lorain County Community College’s Civic Concert Band.

Music matters at Kendal

Kendal is home to dozens of musicians of all levels and interests. George wanted to give Kendal musicians another outlet for playing together so he put together THE Occasional Band (photographed below). “We occasionally play for occasions,” says George, the most recent one being Kendal’s 30th anniversary celebration in November. Next up is Kendal’s annual Fourth of July gathering.

But fellowship - playing with each other not for an audience – is the main point of the band, George says. “We enjoy playing with each other and then go to lunch,” he says.

THE Occasional Band members are: Tom Berger (harmonica); Judy Cook (concertina); Barbara Green (trumpet); Steve Kerr (French horn); Kathy Caldwell, Kathy Hazelton and Betty Mahjoub (flute); Randy Matthews (guitar); Larry Mirel (clarinet); Don Parker (rhythm box); Bruce Richards (trombone) and George on one or another of his instruments.

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George has weekly music dates with clarinetist Larry Mirel, who was his mentor when he moved to Kendal, and pianist Betsy Baumbach.

Kendal’s indoor swimming pool was also a big plus for George’s move to Kendal. George swims three times a week and volunteers as a pool monitor so other Kendal residents can swim.

He also likes to attend an occasional concert Oberlin College but playing music, not watching it is his top priority.

“Music is much too important to leave it to the professionals,” he says.

Why Oberlin ?

A Guide to Oberlin, Ohio- Dining, Shopping, and Attractions

See Why Oberlin is a Great Place to Live

Author Molly Kavanaugh 2020In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.

About Kendal at Oberlin: Kendal is a nonprofit life plan community serving older adults in northeast Ohio. Located about one mile from Oberlin College and Conservatory, and about a 40 minute drive from downtown Cleveland, Kendal offers a vibrant resident-led lifestyle with access to music, art and lifelong learning.