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Banjo players keep strumming along on Long Island

The Long Island Banjo Society performs every Friday

The Long Island Banjo Society performs every Friday night at the VFW Post 9482 in Copiague from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Jan. 6, 2012) Credit: Ursula Moore

World War II Veteran John Halpin started playing the banjo when he was a young boy.

He was inspired to learn how to play the instrument after watching his mother play the piano.

“It’s happy music,” said Halpin, of the upbeat sounds that the banjo creates.

And at the age of 95, the Ridge man gets the chance to play the happy music every Friday night at Banjo Night held at VFW Post 9482 in Copiague from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The free weekly event hosted by the Long Island Banjo Society based in Amityville is led by musical instructor Mark DeMeo, of Huntington. The banjo band plays music from the 1920s and 1930s.

Long Island Banjo Society president and banjo player John Connolly, 65, of Farmingdale, admitted that the banjo makes individuals want to either tap their feet, clap their hands or get up and dance.

“You can’t keep your feet from tapping,” he said.

The society has 35 members, ranging in age from the early 30s to late 90s. The group performs at events such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Fourth of July Statute of Liberty Celebration and Macy’s Flower Show.

Fellow banjo player Father Bill Brisotti from Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Wyandanch was thrilled to share his banjo playing skills with the enthusiastic crowd.

“I have always loved the banjo sound,” Brisotti said. “My love for music started with my grandfather who played the mandolin.”

The weekly banjo nights began when a group of banjo players decided they wanted to play for the public audience.

“They didn’t want people to lose the appreciation for banjo music,” Connolly said.

Under the rainbow colored disco lights, people danced to the upbeat tunes from the four-string banjo players. Mabel Fingando, 92, of West Babylon attends every week eager to hear the toe-tapping jams.

“This music is the best,” Fingando said.

Dolly Calandrino, of Lindenhurst, agreed.

“They are awesome. I love it. Listening to them play is therapy for me,” Calandrino said. “I always walk out of here happy.”

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