|Forty years of tickling the ivories for Kut-Ups
It all began at grandmotherís 1927 Steinway grand piano
Larry Broderick has a longtime enchantment with the piano, beginning as a 5-year-old when he could barely reach the ivory keys of his grandmother’s 1927 Steinway Grand. He remembers those days in Boulder, Colo., where he grew up. Even an episode he remembers about a blind piano tuner reinforces the enchantment.
“He came to my grandmother’s home and while working on the inside, said, ‘there’s a crack down here.’ It was invisible to my grandmother, but he traced its length with his fingers and she had it repaired.”
Whether it added a bit of magic to the piano for Broderick can’t be proved, but he’s never forgotten the special touch, not vision, this piano tuner had.
Neither one of Broderick’s parents were musically inclined, but they encouraged young Larry to learn more about playing the piano.
By the time he was in junior high school, he was playing in the school band and a dance combo performing weekends in Boulder cafes and coffee houses.
Learning the bassoon
In high school at that time there were so many young pianists, the instructor told Broderick to try another instrument and handed him a bassoon.
This is a difficult reed instrument to play, (ask any bassoonist) but he accomplished the task and thusly encouraged, took up alto and tenor saxophones and even the trumpet to add to his instrumental repertoire.
This led to four years at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he earned a BA in Music Theory. He also has an MA in Musical Composition from UC Berkeley where he studied with famed 20th-century classical composer, Roger Sessions. Broderick also served several years with the U.S. Army, much of the time as a musician with Army bands in Germany.
Broderick must have absorbed a bit of Northern California culture from his years at Berkeley, for he moved to the Hessel area south of Sebastopol where his sister lived in 1972. He quickly earned gigs as a pianist in the many folk, country and western, and jazz combos thronging the Sonoma County scene as they continue to do so.
“I was looking around to land another group needing a pianist, and I called the Volunteer Bureau in Santa Rosa to see if they had any ideas,” he said.
“They put me in touch with a senior group in Rohnert Park called Kitchen Kut-Ups, who were looking for a volunteer piano player.
Becoming more professional
“Here, I met Betty Ferra, founder and director and a former vaudeville performer herself, and was introduced to the 11 senior women in the group. They were playing kazoos for music and using kitchen pots and pans, wooden spoons, washboard and whatever they could find for rhythm accompaniment. Betty was convinced a piano-player could help them sound a bit more professional.”
This was in 1973. Now, Broderick’s celebrating his 40th year as music director for the Kut-Ups. (They’re trying to drop the word “Kitchen” from their name, but for long time fans it’s a difficult task).
He’s also celebrating his 70th birthday this month, has never married and lives in his own home in Santa Rosa, closer to his weekend venues.
The Kut-Ups have gone more upscale with their annual revues over the past 40 years. They’ve graduated from kazoos and wooden spoons, have many talented dancers, singers and comedians, plus the Rohnert Park Community Band and its dozen or more musicians in the orchestra pit on their roster.
Broderick leads the band from his piano bench and always has a solo spot on the program. The next Kut-Ups revue arrives July 2013, with dates to be announced.
Oh, by the way. His grandmother’s 1927 Steinway Grand sits proudly, enjoying retirement in Broderick’s home.