Sal Muscente—a lifelong singer and performer–said that when he first picked up the banjo at age 82, "My fingers didn't want to answer my brain's commands."
But after two years of hard work and determination, he's worked his way through a number of songs and learned to read music.
"I used to have to literally grab my thumb with my other hand and pull it around the banjo," he said. "Now it's used to it; it knows what to do."
Originally from Yonkers, Muscente moved to Jefferson Village in Yorktown Heights after his wife passed away. At that time, he was depressed and overweight.
"My daughter and granddaughters told me I needed to take better care of myself," he said.
So Muscente joined Club Fit and began biking 10 miles every day and swimming 40 laps. He starts his days at 4:15.
"But something I'd always wanted to learn to do was play the banjo," he said. "I remember watching the Philadelphia Mummers Parade and loving to watch the banjo players go by. I like the beat and the rhythm of all 150 banjo players at once."
Muscente takes lessons at in Dobbs Ferry with guitar and banjo teacher Al Becker.
"I love working with Sal," Becker said. "It's a little harder; but he's so dedicated. He's come a long way."
Muscente said that, at first, he thought it might be hopeless.
"But I love learning the old songs too much to give up," he said. "I think learning the banjo has helped keep me young. Thank God I'm doing pretty good now. I'm not a defeatist."