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On the second Saturday evening of each month, you’re likely to find the residents of GreenFields tapping their toes to the lively tempos of bluegrass brought to them by Tom Dearing. A resident of GreenFields of Geneva retirement community for five years, Dearing is a retired high school chemistry teacher and a self-professed bluegrass aficionado. He has coordinated the monthly bluegrass jam at GreenFields since the beginning of the year
The jam, Dearing said, is “a group of musicians that get together to share bluegrass music. They play what they like to play and other people follow along if they’re able. If they’re not, they can either fake it or pass and sit quietly and enjoy. It’s an improvise type of thing. People from all over come to play” Fellow GreenFields resident Arnie Lund has joined in on guitar, with the other musicians coming from throughout Northern Illinois.
A guitarist and vocalist, Dearing started performing bluegrass music as a college student at the University of Illinois. “There was a group of people who were really into bluegrass. It was the folk era and we had a lot of fun playing,” he said. After college, he worked for several years in Danville before moving north to the Chicagoland area. “Some of the same guys from college were playing bluegrass up here so I started playing with them again.” Eventually, the group disbanded and playing, he said, “fell by the sidelines.”
Just prior to Dearing’s retirement in 2000 however, his interest was reignited. “I became involved with Northern Illinois Bluegrass Association; they list jams in the area. Through them, I met the leader of the Fox Valley Bluegrass group in Sycamore, He invited me to join the band. Everything fell into place and I played with them for many years,” Dearing said. The band performed at retirement communities, festivals and bars in the area. “I had a good time with that.” While he no longer officially plays with the band, he’s still involved with the Northern Illinois Bluegrass Association.
Recently, when Dearing ran into a “fellow” looking for someplace to hold a jam, he suggested GreenFields. “it’s a great spot for it,” he said. “Word’s getting around about the jam at GreenFields and we’ve had more than 80 people in the audience,” he said.
“I think that bluegrass is growing in popularity. Those who like bluegrass, really like it a lot and enjoy performing. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but we get good feedback from our audience,” said Dearing. “Our monthly jams are open to the public to both jam and enjoy. We’re hoping to perpetuate the monthly jam at GreenFields for many many years.”
The next Bluegrass Jam at GreenFields will be on April 14th from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at GreenFields of Geneva, ON801 Friendship Way, Geneva. The event is free and open to the public.