The band members cheer when John Hitchcock, a saxophone player, limps through the door. This is his first time back after surgery.
"Lovely! Great!" he gushes. "I feel like I've come home."
Home for Mr. Hitchcock and 24 other older musicians is the Goldenaires, a band at the Florence Bain Senior Center in Columbia that plays everything from jazz to sing-alongs.
The musicians range in age from 61 to 80. And the 61-year-old drummer, Dick Erlanger, just returned last month after undergoing quadruple-bypass heart surgery.
Others have missed time because of poor health. A few spend their winters in Florida. But Dorothy Faustman, the 80-year-old director and senior member, collars enough for Wednesday practices, and sternly keeps them in line and on time.
"I always call her the warden," jokes Carlton Crutchfield, 79, a banjo and guitar player from Ellicott City.
Ms. Faustman wears a whistle around her neck. When it's time to start this Wednesday's practice in a large, hollow-sounding room at the center, she blows that silver whistle as if she were a referee.
She gets everyone's attention, including the senior citizens preparing for lunch on the other side of the room.
She runs the band through the 20 songs it will play Dec. 5 at the Reisterstown Road Plaza, one of four holiday concerts the Goldenaires have scheduled next month. The band performs frequently at the senior center and will appear for a Thanksgiving lunch concert there today.
When a song starts roughly, Ms. Faustman takes off one shoe and bangs it on a table.
"Stop! Stop! Cut it out!" she cries.
The music lurches into silence. She starts it up again with a wave of her right arm. Soon she is high stepping with the beat, throwing out her arms and beaming, until she gets red in the face and sits down.
The band was formed in 1984 mainly to play for Howard County's senior citizens. Ms. Faustman and Jim Redding were two of the original three members.
Ms. Faustman, who lives in Columbia, is a classical pianist. She studied as a teen at the European Conservatory of Music in Baltimore.
Mr. Redding, 71, also lives in Columbia. He retired nine years ago as financial manager for the weather satellite programs at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. He plays banjo and guitar and arranges the music.
"After I retired I wasn't going to sit home and do nothing," he says. "I think that's the same for a lot of us. We've got some people who had their instruments on a shelf for 25, 30 years."
The trio grew to a couple of dozen -- trumpeters, saxophonists, clarinetists, trombonists, banjoists and guitarists, pianists, violinists, accordionists, drummers and singers.
A few played professionally, but most were amateurs who played for the love of music. None gets paid for playing with the Goldenaires.
And most show up every Wednesday to play songs such as "Hello Dolly," "In The Mood," "St. Louis Blues," and, during the holidays, "Frosty the Snowman" and "Jingle Bell Rock."
Mr. Hitchcock arrives to a burst of applause, limping because of arthritis in his right hip, moving slowly because of recent surgery for colon cancer. He's 69.
He played in jazz bands and dance bands and even a German oompah band. Even today, even with his health problems, he plays in two bands in addition to the Goldenaires. What would he be doing if he didn't play music?
"Sitting on my dead butt," he says.