FAIRFIELD — Age is just a number to John Kolarik, the 90-year-old retired Solano Community College music educator.
He’s playing two shows this weekend, Saturday night with the Vallejo Symphony and Sunday afternoon with the Solano Community Symphony.
Pretty good for a guy who had a triple bypass over the summer and is back to playing tennis.
In April, he lost longtime fellow musician and friend Dave Froehlich. It was Froelich who got him the teaching post at Solano College.
Kolarik started at the old Vallejo campus. He has a black-and-white picture of the school’s piano lab, students sitting at keyboards wearing headphones while following directions.
Froehlich and Kolarik played together in the Vallejo Symphony. Both played the bass.
“We stood next to each other for years,” Kolarik said. “He was a perfectionist.”
When Froelich quit the symphony, Kolarik bought Froelich’s bass and still plays it today.
When the two weren’t performing or talking about music, they enjoyed fishing trips and other activities.
“We got to be close,” Kolarik said. “We agreed on a lot of stuff.”
At work, they shared an office, with their desks facing each other, and classroom space.
It had been a few years since the two had played together. They were frequent musical guests at the two Merrill Gardens retirement homes in Vallejo. Kolarik would start on bass, Froehlich on piano. Then they would switch. Sometimes they both ended up playing the piano.
“We had a good time,” Kolarik said.
The first time the two met, Kolarik recalled being struck by Froehlich’s “tremendous musicianship. He could listen and duplicate a song. He was not a good music reader. He learned by ear.”
Kolarik took piano lessons as a child. He didn’t like the amount of practice required. His mother wouldn’t let him walk away from music, however. He approached the band teacher at school and discovered the only instrument left was the drums. His mother sent him back to ask for something different. Kolarik ended up on the alto horn and moved up to trombone when one became available.
Music lessons were at 7 a.m. Saturday with a trombone player from the Duluth (Minn.) Symphony. He stuck with the trombone for many years. Kolarik switched to the bass after discovering the trombone wasn’t one of the busiest instruments in a symphony.
Kolarik’s love of music came early in life. He recalled standing in front of a phonograph, bringing friends in to listen with him.
“They would gradually trickle out,” he said.
During his service in World War II, Kolarik played with the Navy band. He was also sent out to sea as a gunnery officer.
“I didn’t know the first thing about guns,” he said.
The military service enabled him to attend the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on the GI Bill.
Kolarik also uses his musical talents as part of the therapy for his heart attack and bypass. He’s got a German-made horn he calls the tenor flugelhorn. He plays for about 30 minutes daily to help with breathing.
“I feel quite good,” Kolarik said.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.