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August 8, 2013

A noteworthy reunion

Walk Back in Time raises money for music in Newburyport schools

It’s been three years since the Newburyport High School Class of 1970 held its 40-year reunion, and the featured band is still going strong.

“Music for me, I can’t escape it,” said Jim Grenier, one-half of the acoustic duo Stellwagen. “When you’re 61, you’re not playing football anymore, but music you can do till you’re 90.”

That 40-year reunion was actually a three-day-long event with one of the nights dedicated to music. Grenier and fellow classmate Buddy Lauder cobbled a band together to play the hits of their day.

“We invited classmates to show up to play the piano, drums, whatever they wanted to play,” Grenier said. “So we put together a kind of ad hoc garage band and played some of the old songs that we used to play back then. And people went absolutely nuts.”

The crowd liked the band so much that the word got to then-Newburyport Public Schools Superintendent Marc Kerble, who thought that another show might make a good fundraiser for the Music for Music Foundation, which helps music programs in the schools.

“These guys who all got up onstage with us, all learned to play their musical instruments when they were in fourth and fifth grade,” Grenier said. “That’s where we all started. The (music program) touched all of us on that stage. If we didn’t start playing in school, we probably wouldn’t be playing today. Once you get to the high school, there’s so much more going on. You’re not just going to pick up a trombone. So when (Lauder) said we were all going to do a show to raise money for the music program, we were all in.”

The next thing they knew, Grenier and Lauder had put The Reunion Band back together, playing hits from the 1960s and ’70s, for the first “Walk Back in Time” show. This year’s version will feature hits from groups like The Beatles, the Bee Gees and The Doors at the Elks Lodge in Newburyport on Saturday.

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