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Musician still a ‘powerhouse’ at age 88

Andi Hendrickson / For The Lantern

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For some Ohio State students, playing music is just something to do between classes, but for one community orchestra member who’s 88 years young, it’s something he won’t give up.

Bill Sims joined community orchestra three years ago, one year after its inception. Sims is part of Program 60, an opportunity for people more than 60-years-old to take classes for free at OSU. Sims plays in the freshman orchestra and the community orchestra at OSU and takes classes in history, philosophy and music theory.

“I haven’t played in an orchestra since 1978 when I was playing in the Columbus Symphony,” Sims said. “I started then in 2008 playing in the community orchestra … and I just go there to have fun.”

OSU’s community orchestra class brings together non-music majors to rehearse once a week. Students of different ages, majors, backgrounds and experiences are encouraged to join the class, said Jacob Dakon, conductor of the orchestra.

“The name, the very nature, of the orchestra is through community,” Dakon said. “I think Bill … finds friends, you know, from different generations which he can talk to, that he can communicate with … He gets to participate in something where age doesn’t matter anymore.”

Sims, who attended OSU from 1940 to 1943, and again after World War II in 1946, said he began playing the violin at age 8. He said he hopes to keep playing for the rest of his life.

“I think, in a way, I just enjoy the physical act of playing, really, as well as hearing the music I am playing,” Sims said. “It’s a tactile thing as well as being an aural objective.”

Dakon said Sims is a great student who brings not only diversity but also many years of experience to the orchestra.

“There’s nothing bad to say about Bill,” Dakon said. “If anything, the guy is one of the most powerful players we have in the orchestra, and I mean, that’s saying a lot since he’s 88-years-old and he’s still a little powerhouse, so it’s fabulous.”

Sims said Dakon really makes the class enjoyable as an instructor. Even though Sims has played many of these pieces before, he said Dakon finds a way to help him improve his playing.

“He is, I think, the best conductor that I’ve had while I’ve been in the orchestra,” Sims said. “Rehearsals are a pleasure because you’re learning, you’re developing skills, you’re getting a good bit of practice when you’re there taking the lessons from the conductor.”

Meghan Nestleroth, a second-year in pharmaceutical sciences and a cello player, said she looks up to Sims and is inspired by the older musicians in the class.

“It makes me happy to see that (older people) are still playing their instruments and still seem to be enjoying it,” she said. “I would love to still be playing my cello 30 years from now and still enjoy it and be in a group like community orchestra.”

Sims said for him, the class is less about the final grade and more about having the opportunity to network with young musicians and share a love for music.

“Last year, I was the stand partner of a lady who was in chemical engineering,” Sims said. “Now, unfortunately, she’s apparently got more chemical engineering to do and she can’t really play. We had a nice time talking to each other.”

At the end of the quarter, the community and freshmen orchestras put on a public concert, which Sims said he looks forward to each quarter and strives to do the best he can on the stage.

“I think really my goal is just to be able to attempt to be a good example to some of those young people,” Sims said. “Whether they know it or not.”

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