When the COVID-19 pandemic sent the nation into lockdown, millions found their lives turned upside down. To cope with that new normal, many people started exploring hobbies and other interests.
Gene Mage, managing director of custom programs in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, decided to reignite his passion for playing music.
Mage took guitar lessons growing up, and he discovered a love for playing music and learning to play songs by his favorite bands.
After graduating from Cornell University in the late 1980s, Mage took up bass guitar. He had always had an interest in the instrument, and he enjoyed learning notes, chords and proper bass technique as he entered the workforce.
Mage said that over time, he played less and less as he started a family and focused on his career. So, when the 2020 lockdown opened his schedule with an abundance of free time, he saw it as the perfect opportunity to dive back into music.
Interested in learning the classic upright bass, Mage took lessons at the Hudson Music Center in Dexter. While he enjoyed studying the instrument, he soon found arthritis in his hands precluded him from playing upright bass for extended periods of time. Undeterred, Mage switched to the electric bass guitar, which caused less strain on his joints.
In early 2022, music teachers at the center approached Mage about establishing an adult rock band program. They sought out other members and started rehearsing that April. Mage said performing with others is an incredible experience.
“It’s just fun to play music with other people and perform together,” Mage said.
The band members work together to schedule rehearsals and source their music repertoire. While the band plays a diverse range of music, Mage said, they prefer to stick to classic rock from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. Recently, the band has performed covers of songs from The Beatles and Foo Fighters.
Mage said some of his favorite songs to perform with the group include “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by The Beatles.
“It’s very rewarding when you put a song together and you finally run through it,” Mage said.
The band’s debut performance is scheduled for mid-November, playing for friends and family at one of the band member’s homes. In the future, Mage said, they hope to expand to play in local venues.
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A key component of the band is their interest in including guest artists. Mage said they welcome anyone with a desire to pop in to sing or play an instrument for a couple of songs.
“The intent in the long run is for it to be a little bit of a community project. We’re really open for people who are interested and maybe they’ve never, or haven’t recently, played in a band, and they’ll get the chance to do that,” Mage said.
Aside from his time playing bass with the band, Mage also continues to play guitar, with a recent interest in jazz guitar. His passion for the instrument is shared by his son, who is an accomplished guitarist in Baltimore.
Mage said he loved helping his son learn guitar as he grew up, and he has fond memories of their time playing together.
“I enjoyed playing with him when he was practicing and growing up, jamming together, that kind of thing. But he got so far beyond me so fast that I wasn’t really able to keep up,” Mage joked.
Mage said he would encourage others interested in playing with a band to seek out opportunities and not be afraid to put themselves out there. “If you aspire to play with a group, ask around and find out what’s happening because there are all kinds of opportunities to play,” Mage said.