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Walter and Mary Ann Sereth

This is a true story of two people who came together due to the love of Dixieland music. Walter Sereth is a person who enjoys Dixieland music. He says, I lived next door to Alan Crowne and his brothers when I was 12 and some years later, got into play Dixieland. I never, except in the Army, played professionally. Mary Ann Stevens played violin and had an interest in fiddle music when she was going to college in Oklahoma. She says, I learned some fiddle tunes in college and then I came out to California in 1975 and I heard a band playing Irish songs at a dance. I joined the band and started playing for Scottish country dancing. Walter was the drummer in the band and he asked me out. We've played in that band for five years.

Walter performed with the Golden Eagle Jazz Band that traveled around the world. Mary Ann says, we traveled all over the world playing jazz with his band. Walter played clarinet with them and I was just listening. I loved the Dixieland music. Walter says I played with the Golden Eagles for 25 years on the semipro festival circuit. Both Walter and Mary Ann traveled to Japan and Italy and on cruises to Alaska and Mexico. When not traveling with Walter, Mary Ann says, I played with a classical quartet group here at my house and also played Scottish music with the Scottish Fiddlers of Los Angeles.

Things changed for Mary Ann when she went home to Oklahoma for a high school reunion. She says, I played some tunes on my fiddle and they said, 'You used to play bass, too" and I said 'I'd forgotten that.' In high school, they have basses and I was in the music program helping teach the junior high kids violin. A group of us formed a swing band and played for some of the sock hops back in the 60's. So I did play the bass and I had forgotten all about it. I decided since I played it once, I could do it again. So I bought a bass, started playing and realized I needed to take lessons. Mary Ann has now played the bass for eight years and is presently taking lessons from well known jazz bassist Jennifer Leitham

The third Sunday of each month, Walter and Mary Ann perform at the Jazz Forum in a hall in Santa Monica. Walter says, we sometimes play at the Southern California Hot Jazz Society in Southgate on the first Sunday of the month and Mary Ann adds, we play in friends' homes weekly. I love the bass. It's a very wonderful, driving instrument.

Both Walter and Mary Ann enjoy playing traditional jazz, but they also play other types of music as well. Mary Ann says, at Jazz Forum, we play music from the 20's to the 50's. For example, 'Satin Doll,' 'Exactly Like You,' 'All of Me,' etc. Walter and I formed a trio consisting of clarinet, bass and a chord player, either guitar or electric piano, and we played at a coffee house in Long Beach and that was a lot of fun. We'd like to do more of that kind of entertainment.

Mary Ann's love of Dixieland music has expanded to playing with a special group. They are called The Belles of Bourbon Street and they are an all-women Dixieland group. She says, they asked me to play in August of 2005. They had a tuba player, but they wanted an acoustic bass. The Belles are women in their 20's and 30's. Mary Ann is the oldest player of the group, being over 60. She says, they're great young women and I enjoy playing music with them.

Walter and Mary Ann are inspirations to people in their later years who want to continue to pursue their passion and love for music. Mary Ann says, I picked up the bass at 60 so you can do whatever you want. I really believe that. As for Walter, I took up tenor banjo seven or eight years ago, as if the world needed another banjo player! Since we were playing English country dance music, we thought guitar would be a sweeter, more mellow sound. So, I bought a tenor guitar and tuned it like a tenor banjo. I eventually decided that I really wanted to play six-string guitar, which has little in common with the tenor guitar. That's proving very difficult. I'm taking lessons, but I don't know if I'll ever get anywhere on six-string guitar. Like most instruments, it isn't difficult to play it badly, but to really play jazz guitar well is extremely difficult.

Walter and Mary Ann would love to play more traditional jazz. Walter says, the existing bands are pretty well set as far as their personnel. It's a bit of a closed shop. We work with Roger Jamison, who has had his New Orleanians for many years. Roger plays occasional gigs and hires us when he can, but that's not a lot of chance to play. That's about the only working group we really get calls for.

When they are not playing Dixieland together, Walter and Mary Ann play a different kind of music that gets very little attention. Mary Ann says, Walter and I play a lot of English country dancing music. We love it, it's beautiful stuff. They play in a group called The Westside Gang that performs at various country dances and ethnic festivals. Both Walter and Mary Ann are multi-instrumentalists at those events and enjoy playing the different types of music.

Even though it's not always jazz, Walter and Mary Ann Sereth show a love for not only music, but for the love that they have for each other. It shows that two people can continue to grow as they get older together. You not only see a bond between each other, but you hear it as well. There is a quiet intensity that shows in the way they perform not only on stage, but in life. They are a national treasure that only gets better as they continue to go through life marching down the street.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Walter and Mary Ann Sereth
  • Subtitle: A Musical Love Story
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