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Lifestyle

July 14, 2006

Salem Athenaeum opens garden for summer jazz

SALEM - Jazz musician Eli Newberger didn't quite choose the instrument he wanted to play.

"The tuba came to me," Newberger said. "In the elementary school, I was playing the bass drum in the band. (The instructor) said he was interested in finding sturdy boys who could carry a tuba in the high school band. He dragged out the tuba, and I fell in love with it."

Newberger, who grew up in Mount Vernon, N.Y., played the tuba into his high school years. At age 14, he wanted to further his tuba skills beyond the limited lessons he received in the high school band. So he ventured into New York City to the office of New York Philharmonic tuba player Bill Bell after hearing Bell welcomed players for lessons.

"I walked up to his studio, and there was a whole group of tuba players," Newberger recalled. "They used to hang out in Bell's studio. Bell listened to me, and he said, 'I'll teach you,' and he lent me one of his instruments. I studied with him for four years. He was so generous to me."

Newberger continued playing the tuba, as well as the piano, during his years at Yale University, where he formed a jazz band. After medical school, Newberger went to Africa to work as a Peace Corps doctor. He returned to the United States in 1969 and worked as a pediatrician in Boston.

Newberger, who lives in Brookline, now teaches at Harvard Medical School and founded the Child Protection Team and the Family Development Program at Children's Hospital Boston. He has also written several articles and a book, "The Men They Will Become." But through it all, music has remained his first love.

"For me, music is like water to a fish. I can't live without it," Newberger said. "I just have always made room for it."

Newberger was a founding member of the Black Eagle Jazz Band (later the New Black Eagle Jazz Band), a popular Boston-area jazz group. After playing with the band for more than 30 years, Newberger left to work on some new musical projects, including the Jazz Tuber Trio and Eli's All-Stars - featuring pianist Bob Winter, tenor saxophonist Ted Casher and trombonist Dan Fox.

Eli's All-Stars will play in the garden of the Salem Athenaeum during the Salem Summer Jam on Thursday. They'll be joined by vocalist Mary Ann Lanier for an evening of jazz and pop music.

"There's very little in the way of musical performance at the Athenaeum," said Donald Cutler, event coordinator and Athenaeum member. "This was an idea to introduce a particular kind of very American music to the Athenaeum."

Guests are invited to bring seating and picnics to enjoy before or during the concert. The concert will be an intimate one; there is space for about 200 guests in the garden.

If you go

What: Salem Summer Jam

When: Thursday, July 20. Picnicking at 6:30 p.m.; concert at 7:30.

Where: Salem Athenaeum porch, 337 Essex St., Salem

How: Tickets are $25; $20 for members and free for children under 16. For reservations, call 978-744-2540.

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