Rabbi Daniel Plotkin was in the marching band at the University of Wisconsin and one of his highlights came when the football team took part in the Rose Bowl parade in 1994 — the school's first appearance in the game in 31 years.
When Plotkin became the rabbi at Beth Shalom in Columbia less than three years ago, he soon learned of several other congregants with dormant musical backgrounds but no outlet to keep sharp or exhibit their skills.
With the assistance of Steve Cohen, who joined the congregation in 2005, Plotkin created Divine Intervention, an eclectic mix of musicians who held An Evening at the Coffee House on Jan. 25 as a fundraiser for Beth Shalom. It was the second such program at Beth Shalom and Saturday's event attracted about 120 people.
"It was a really good turnout, and I guess everyone had a good time since they want us to keep doing it," said Cohen, a guitarist in the group.
The concert is held around the time of Purim, which "celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people from the wicked Haman in the days of Queen Esther of Persia," according to website chabad.org.
"It is a mix of jazz and rock, going back to the Big Band era, and some modern pop tunes," says Plotkin, who was a rabbi at a reformed congregation in St. Louis before he came to Columbia. Plotkin played the trumpet Saturday at the coffee house.
Howard Lessey, who is a member of the Washington Redskins' marching band and a long-time member of Beth Shalom, plays trumpet with the group. Plotkin notes Lessey was able to attend more rehearsals this year, after the Redskins were 3-13 overall in 2013 after making a post-season run the following season that extended their season into January.
The group also includes a lawyer, an employee with Homeland Security and a pair of father-child combinations: Cohen and his sons and Mike Colton and his daughters.
Mike Colton, who was in the University of Maryland marching band in the 1980s, plays the trombone and was joined by daughters Gavi, who is currently in the marching band at the University of Maryland and plays the bass trombone; and Adira, a freshman at Atholton High in Columbia who plays the saxophone.
"Many [musicians] had not played for years and wanted to play for fun. We all have families so it is hard to get out" for more than one concert a year, Mike Colton said.
Jonathan Cohen, 15, is a sophomore at Mt. Hebron High in Ellicott City and plays the trombone; while Mitchell Cohen, 13, attends Patapsco Middle School as an eighth-grader and plays the trumpet.
"I have been playing the guitar since I was 8," said Steve Cohen. "After college I was in a band in New York and then I moved to Maryland" and was without a group before Divine Intervention came along.
Steve Cohen said his highlight is when the group plays the 1969 hit "Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?" by Chicago. That was the second selection last year and the final song Saturday. The closing set also included "25 or 6 to 4" by Chicago; "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder; "Ain't Misbehavin" by Ozzy Osbourne; and "Take the 'A' Train" by Billy Strayhorn and the Delta Rhythm Boys.
Cohen said putting together the annual event "is a lot of hard work. The fact of the matter is, when something sounds good it is a rush. It is fun to do."
Other members of the group include Noah Tanenholtz (drums), David Heiligman (bass, guitar), Randy Dainekoff (guitar, ukulele), Matt Klein (violin, vocals, sound engineer), Brad Winters (bass), Glenn Solomon (vocals), Mark Mammel (trombone) and Jen Logsdon (sound engineer).