When she was a girl, Lotte Chakowski wanted to play the clarinet.
Her parents gave her lessons but they proved too expensive, so she had to quit.
Retirement finally brought Chakowski the opportunity to learn about music as part of a USC band for people 50 and older.
She and other members of the Congaree New Horizons Band program get together once a week to rehearse.
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They perform when they're invited to nursing homes and festivals and they hold two concerts a year.
But this program - full of high achievers, with a few workaholics thrown in - is not about perfection.
It's not about working their way up to "first chair." In fact, there is no such thing.
Playing in the New Horizons band is about exploring a new interest, meeting a new challenge, creating a new circle and, mostly, just having fun.
One of the conductor's ground rules is that making music should relieve stress, not create it.
"I've developed a love for music," said Chakowski, 60, a retired high-school teacher who plays clarinet in the band and recently decided to take up the viola, too.
The idea of organizing bands to improve the quality of life of older folks developed in the early 1990s and has taken off around the world.
The program started at the University of South Carolina three years ago, when music professor Jeremy Lane realized it would be a good fit for Columbia. The program has grown from about 20 participants initially to nearly 70.
"They are all energetic," said Lane, 40. "I never have to prod anybody to do anything."
In many ways, the program transcends music. Members form bonds - a bond already broken once by death. And they know enough about life to take a moment to check on each other.
"They go to dinner," Lane said. "They get together during the holidays. ... They sit down and play duets together."
Sam Catoe, a 62-year-old minister, said he's made friends he'll keep for the rest of his life. Playing tuba in the band has turned out to be the hobby his cardiologist kept telling him he needed to find.
"This is pure play," Catoe said.
"I think we make good music. It's not hard music, and that's OK with me. If it were hard music, it would be like work and I wouldn't want to do it anymore."
Some members played wind instruments, brass or percussion in high school or college, then put down their instruments for careers and families.
Most never played a note in their lives.
The group has been divided into a beginners/intermediate group, a jazz band and a concert band.
"Having regretted not learning an instrument, it's great having an opportunity - to know that it's not too late," said Jeff Smith, who is in his 50s and works in state government.
On other campuses, band members participate in research on music and aging. Lane expects to build on that aspect of the program here.
For now, though, he has found that encouraging participants to take private lessons from his college students benefits both.
His college students take ownership. They're protective of their older charges. And they've come to recognize that age is not a factor in learning.
Band members find themselves admiring these young, proficient college students.
"I look up to them," Chakowski said. "I say, 'I hope I can do this really well for Miss Kim.' Miss Kim is like 19 or 20. She is just super.
"I've learned so much from her this year already."