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February 8, 2013

EXTRA MILER: Clark Memorial Hospital musicians giving it their all

One of Chicago’s top hits from the 1970s was spilling out to the sidewalk in front of Stevie Ray’s Blues Bar on a hot Friday night in Louisville. I had heard the Clark Memorial Hospital band (Clark Band) was very good; however, I was sure the music drifting into my head was a recording by the original artist, with the Clark Band on break. Upon entering the establishment, I viewed 14 musicians on a large stage and they were definitely not on break. 

The rest of the evening was equally impressive with one hit after the other coming from a group of 12 men and two women who were clearly having a good time. Everyone in the band has a direct affiliation to Clark Memorial Hospital and they are our Extra Milers for February because they donate every penny of their proceeds to charitable organizations. It actually costs each of the members to participate in the band (gas, instrument, set-up, etc.), but that doesn’t seem to be a problem because of their passion for music and friendships. 

Dave Hunt, the band’s lead guitar player and a hospital employee in the information services department, explains, “A lot of bands tend to keep cool, serious expressions on their faces and we couldn’t if we tried because we are having so much fun on that stage.” 

While interviewing the band members, it was evident they enjoy their time together, as they laughed and joked with one another.  When asked if they ever get into disagreements or arguments, the answer was a quick no.

 Martin Padgett, sax player and CEO of Clark Memorial Hospital said, “We all get along very well and have had no real disagreements or arguments.”  Todd Fonda, a lead singer for the band and also a Clark employee in food and nutrition, added, “Maybe we get along so well because we don’t  ever need to discuss money — we give it all away and just have a good time playing our music.” 

The band plays predominately ‘70’s hits, practices two or three times before each show, and they perform five to six times a year, including charitable functions for the Clark Memorial Hospital Foundation. They have donated their proceeds to the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Crusade for Children, Clark Employee Assistance Fund and the March of Dimes, totaling more than $15,000. 

The band was formed in 2008 with just eight band members and now the 14 include a strong horns section. Because of scheduling conflicts, the entire band rarely finds the opportunity to practice at the same time, yet somehow it all comes together when they step on the stage to perform. They have been known to get into the music to the point of playing for three hours without stopping for a break. 

The Clark Band has also performed at the Riverstage in Jeffersonville and they always enjoy the spacious platform. Tom Hilburn, the band’s harmonica player and a Clark environment services employee, enjoys the Riverstage venue because he can simultaneously throw out a line and fish off the side of the stage. Tom indicated he caught a catfish the last time they performed and when asked if he took it home for dinner he responded, “Nah, I’m not into heavy metal.”  

Most of the band’s members play in other groups, but it is obvious that this band is where they find their passion for music. Gene Oliver, the group’s sax player and also the hospital’s chef, said, “Sometimes it is all surreal to be up on that stage and we really get going when people dance to our music.”  Don Allen, a trumpet player and Hospital Foundation board member added, “Many of our fans follow us to all of the shows. It is like living a teenage dream to be in a band like this.” 

When asked about their fans, Pete Latino, the band’s keyboard player and a physician for the hospital’s emergency department, responded, “We love our fans — they might be a bit more mature, but they truly enjoy the music.” Pete added, “Some of our fans really get into the music and have even thrown their shoes onstage when we play Joe Cocker’s ‘You can Leave Your Hat On.’” This brought about some good natured ribbing from the other band members and Dave Hunt said, “If one of our fans becomes overwhelmed with us or our music, it’s nice to know we have a doctor in the house.” 

The band figures their average age is 50, with the oldest member being David Waiz, the band’s drummer and a hospital employee in the physical therapy department, and the youngest being Andrew Chastain, a trumpet player and volunteer for the hospital. Andrew, who is 25 years old, hears a lot of teasing because of his age. Gene Oliver said, “He didn’t even know what an 8-track was and when we talk about the songs we want to play, Andrew has to look them up on U-tube because he has often never heard of them.”  

The only two women in the band are both singers, Angela Ryan and Teresa Barnett. They were not able to make the interview and planning meeting; however, their band mates were quick to complement their abilities. Gene Oliver said, “They can sing anything asked of them … and they are really good.”  

 When asked how long they plan to keep the band alive, the room became quiet. Finally Martin spoke up and said, “We really never expected the band to take off so well and to grow so quickly, so we haven’t even thought about when we would quit.” It seems each of the band members are content to live their dreams of playing music for the masses while at the same time contributing to charities they love and support and making our community a better place to live.    

The Clark Band will perform next on March 15 at Stevie Ray’s Blues Bar in Louisville. 

Clark Memorial Hospital Band members, Southern Indiana is grateful for your time, dedication, and generosity. You are all truly Extra Milers for Southern Indiana. 

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