When Dick and Phyllis Klosterman designed their house, they made the living area one uninterrupted space, and when it was built, Dick says that he imagined it filled with music and friends. On Wednesday evenings, when a ragtag group of musicians come into his living room, this is just what happens.

The New String Benders are mostly male (although some female musicians come on
occasion), and mostly grey-haired. They all love to play music, and they play together
using their natural talents to find melodies, harmonies and rhythms. Their songbook is
filled with lyrics, but there are no notes on a page and no one is really in charge–although Dick usually chooses the song and Dave Ellis, on banjo, seems to get each piece started. After that it’s a play-by ear version of old favorites like “Red River Valley,” “‘Tis a Gift to be Simple,” some Spanish tunes, a waltz or two, and on into the evening.

Janice Pulliam comes to sing, while some of the musicians’ wives pull up chairs and work on a jigsaw puzzle. Other people drop in just to listen or sing quietly along using the song book to recollect lyrics. “This Land is Your Land” is sung with a few newly minted lines: “…..from Patagonia to the Biscuit Mountain, from Parker Canyon to the Empiritas…..”

Alex Johnson on fiddle, Don Bryan on mandolin.

The evening I dropped in, the band was almost complete. Dick Klosterman plays guitar, Dave Ellis, banjo, Alex Johnson is the fiddler, and Don Bryan plays mandolin. At the center of the band is a keyboard played with gusto by Gamma Levya. Next to him is percussionist Fred Moreno, who plays a cajon (ka-hon) drum, a six-sided wooden box that keeps a lovely muted rhythm going. Dick Klosterman rescued an old bass guitar at the Methodist Church that no one knew what to do with. It’s now an important part of the band, strummed skillfully by Charles Moreno. Astarian Mosley was there with his acoustic guitar. Absent
that evening was Bob Brandt who plays, according to everyone, a “mean harmonica.”

Gama Leyva on the keyboard.

“Everyone brings something to the table,” says Dick Klosterman, who has been nurturing The String Benders for 20 years. Phyllis says that most of the original group have passed on, but notes that new faces keep turning up. Sometimes they start on the sidelines, but most closet musicians can’t resist the band’s spirit and inclusiveness. Dick speaks proudly of the improvement members of the band have made over time.

Around 9 p.m. the music winds down, but there’s usually “just one more tune” before everyone heads for the kitchen table, where a potluck assortment of desserts is laid out. There’s plenty of decaf coffee that Phyllis says is the only kind she brews anymore. By 10 o’clock everyone is out the door. The very difficult jigsaw puzzle is a little further along, some dishes go in the dishwasher, and the sound of music still lingers. Another musical Wednesday night with the Klostermans comes to an end.