How do a 94-year-old retired banker and a 13-year-old budding artist become fast friends?
Randy Buffington, pastor of worship/arts at First Baptist Church in Lee's Summit, creates the opportunity by pairing younger musicians with well-seasoned ones in the church orchestra. The two musicians share trombone-playing talents.
Robert "Bob" Paul and Shae Buffington are seated together at practice each week and play together in blended worship every other Sunday. Shae's been a student of trombone for only three years while Paul has been playing since at least 1934.
"In fifth grade, I got to try out different instruments, and I thought trombone was cool because it had a slide," Shae said about her choice to play trombone. She expects to play through her college years.
"The longer you play — the harder it is to quit," Paul recently reminded her.
Paul speaks from a lifetime of experience — four years playing at Northwest Missouri State Teacher's College (now Northwest Missouri State University) from 1934-1938, followed by a stint in the U.S. Navy, with 15 months in the Navy Band. Looking back, he said, he was hooked for life.
His career has ranged from being a public school band director to playing in Cameron Municipal Band, Independence Community Band, Lee's Summit Symphony, and still, at 94, the First Baptist orchestra.
Shae, who plays trombone with the Pleasant Lea Middle School Band, confided she loves science — especially the study of black holes — in addition to her affinity for drawing.
Paul also spent 50 years in the banking business in Gallatin — 35 years as president of First National Bank. He and his wife, Jane Ann, were active members of First Baptist Church, Gallatin, before retiring and moving closer to family in Lee's Summit.
In the 10 years the couple have been active members at First, Lee's Summit, Paul has mentored — or as he described, "been privileged to play with two other fine young trombonists" — Rebecca Cooper and Aaron Smith.
Shae especially likes Paul's way of waiting until they finish playing a piece before quietly pointing out where she missed a note. "I'm really fortunate to have an older person to help me — it's much better than if I had a 15-year-old telling me," Shae said.
Shae and Paul have a mutual admiration for each other and their talents. "Shae's a good reader; she doesn't need much help," Paul said.
Shae loves performing best. "Applause is nice," she laughed.
However, Paul finds much "enjoyment and self satisfaction from a good rehearsal."
When asked about differences between them, Shae admitted she wouldn't like life without her computer or iPod Touch.
"I frankly don't care — I want someone else to use computers for me and I'll leave the cell phone to [wife] Jane Ann," Paul conceded.
Jane Ann Paul is quick to comment how much she enjoys listening to the church orchestra and how thoughtful other members are to Bob now that he has physical limitations. He uses oxygen now.
The pair enjoys playing and improving together. "Mr. Paul and I sit together only 30 minutes per week and he never fails to compliment me each time we play," Shea said.
"It's fun to watch young people improve; it gets where it is hard to keep up," Paul reflected.
He encourages others with talent to pass it on and not to break the chain of talent through generations.
Buffington's method of pairing an experienced instrument player with a novice results in talent shared between players and with the church and in deep friendships made. Just ask Shea and Paul.