Shari Broder of Freeport was off and running as a musician three years ago after her husband, Eric Bryant, bought her a ukulele for a Valentine’s Day gift.
Not long after that, Broder, Bryant and two friends from Freeport, John and Meg Albright, formed the band they call Crabapple Jam. Playing local venues, the band offers an eclectic mix of music, including covers of Andrew Bird, a popular Chicago musician who performs on many instruments. Bird just happens to be a favorite of Broder and Bryant’s daughter, Andrea Bryant.
“When your 17-year-old daughter thinks you can cover her favorite musician’s songs, that’s cool,” Broder said. “Yeah, I think it’s nice to be in a band. I’m more of a rocker myself and we don’t do much rock. But being in a band at any age is cool.”
Broder, a lawyer, is 59, which puts her right in the middle of the baby-boom generation. In addition to playing the ukulele for Crabapple Jam, she can do bass and percussion. Her husband, 58, performs on the mandolin, guitar and bass. Meg Albright is on the fiddle, while John Albright plays guitar, banjo and trumpet.
“You’re never too old to do anything,” Broder said. “Everybody else in my family are accomplished musicians. I got this ‘uke’ and everybody was really tolerant of me. I was left out. I was among these great musicians and I was not doing anything. I was thinking of myself as a Linda McCartney. Eric helped me, and he also taught me how to play bass.”
Eric Bryant was part of the group Pound o’ Tea, with David Hartley and Elizabeth Guffey, then got together with the Albrights to provide music for “Home Time Radio Hour,” a former annual production of Freeport Players.
“We really didn’t have a plan for where we were going to go with it,” Broder said. “Eric had been writing fiddle tunes, and approached Meg to accompany him in some songs. John said, ‘Oh, can I play, too?’ and Eric said, ‘Yeah.’ It was Eric Bryant and the Coffee House Jam. We played the Coffee House and Freeport First Friday.”
Eric Bryant runs the Open Stage Coffee House, which, three times a year, invites all comers to perform at the Freeport Community Library.
Crabapple Jam became a band in the summer of 2012. The group performed at Freeport First Fridays, held on the first Friday of the month at the Freeport Community Center, in early January.
“We’re not really marketing ourselves,” Broder said. “We’re not trying to make it our day jobs. We don’t have a website yet, though I’m working on one. People who know about us will sometimes contact us. We do some fundraisers.”
Crabapple Jam performs what Broder calls “old-time jazz” songs, such as “This Old House” and “Sentimental Journey,” as well as some folk, and a Beatles song or two.
“I’m more comfortable on stage than the rest of them,” Broder said. “I used to be a dancer, and I was on stage when I was in high school.”
The Broder/Bryant family is a versatile bunch. Angela Bryant, who plays violin and guitar, took over the Coffee House from her father for the February performance.
Andrea Bryant, a junior at Greely High School, said she appreciates that her boomer parents play in a band.
“It’s cool that they can do that,” she said. “I’ve grown up with this. I’ve been to every Coffee House since I was 6. That’s how I learned how to play guitar.”
Because of her mother, she also has grown to appreciate the Beatles.
“My mom listens to cool music,” Andrea Bryant said. “She has allowed me to expand my horizons. We still have Beatles records from when she was little – there are hearts drawn around Paul’s face.”
Broder’s “day job” is multi-dimensional. Her occupation as a lawyer consists of arbitration and mediation. As chairwoman of the state Board of Arbitration and Conciliation, Broder acts as a neutral mediator in disputes between employers and employees. She also works as an arbitrator on a private basis.
A former legislative aid to Sen. Olympia Snowe, Broder is working to gain her certificate as a “life coach” – someone who works with a client to achieve obtainable goals and better control over that person’s life.
“I’m just one of those people who wants to do everything, and wants to do it all at once,” Broder said.
Larry Grard is a staff writer at Current Publishing.
Crabapple Jam includes, from left, Eric Bryant, Shari Broder, Meg Albright and John Albright. Courtesy photoShari Broder puts her soul into her performances with the band Crabapple Jam. Staff photo by Larry Grard