When it comes to music, you only need one instrument.

When it comes to music, you only need one instrument.

Members of the Rubber Capital Harmonica Club believe that. In fact, they are so devoted to the music of that one instrument that have structured and entire band around it.

The 44-member group performs every chance they get and play each time with an enthusiasm and passion that brings smiles to everyone who hears them.

Generally, the club performs at local nursing homes, fairs and civic organizations, where members say they can connect specifically with older residents.

“Most of the time we go to retirement homes or nursing homes, and it’s just a great feeling. For 45 minutes to an hour (we) entertain those people that are there, they love the old music,” said Club President Duane Gisewhite. “Some of them say ‘grandma hasn’t gotten out of her wheelchair in years,’ and they’ll actually want to play.”

The group – which is comprised mostly of seniors – is hoping to see its numbers grow again.

Because the band is made up of older adults, the numbers have diminished as members pass away.

“We’ve been dropping over like flies,” said John Keblesh, a newer member of the club. “We’re running out of members — we’re older people — so we need more members.”

Dues-paying members range in age from 61 to 91, though the group says they had interest from a 10-year-old boy recently.

 “We know that we enjoy it so much, so we like younger people to enjoy it as well,” Spishak said.

 The club was founded in 1976 by a group of local harmonica enthusiasts and says its main objective is to “cultivate, develop, foster, promote, preserve and advance the harmonica and harmonic playing.”

The band is comprised of bass, diatonic and chromatic harmonicas, as well as a 2-foot long chord harmonica. It plays polkas, waltzes, jazz and songs from the 1960s and earlier.

“That’s all we play is old music, because we’re old,” Gisewhite said.

Some popular songs on its set list include “It’s a Small World,” “God Bless America” and “You Are My Sunshine.” Polka staples such as “Just Because Polka” and memorable pop songs like “New York, New York” are also among the troupe’s repertoire.

 Ronald Eicher, a six-year club veteran who plays the chromatic harmonica, said that one of the club’s most exciting moments was performing at the Akron Aeros Game at Canal Park.

Gisewhite added that club performances are an inexpensive way to bring entertainment to large groups. He added that the band can perform at social affairs, birthday parties and other events.

New members can be both seasoned harmonica players and novices, according to the group.

“I hadn’t played harmonica for 25 years and my wife says ‘why don’t you join a harmonica club?’” Kedlesh said. “And I said ‘what’s a harmonica club?’ I came down here and was just so impressed that I joined that night.”

The club is devoted to helping new players learn how to play the harmonica, which they say is one of the easiest instruments to learn.

“Anyone can come, we’re not necessarily looking for professionals. Anyone who wants to try even, we’ll teach them how to play,” Gisewhite said. “I’ll teach them how to read sheet music and even go onto other instruments, because not everyone wants to play a chromatic harmonica.

Keblesh swears it isn’t difficult to learn the harmonica.

“If you can hum,” he says, “you can play.”

Members of the club agree that harmonica music is largely out-of-style, and that with the exception of harmonica accompaniment in some country, blues and jazz songs, it’s not a genre that’s commonly heard. But its roots are deeply embedded in America’s musical history.

“You don’t hear the harmonica on the radio these days that much, but if you go back 50 or 60 years, there were groups that were very popular,” Spishak said. “And those of us that can remember names like ‘The Harmonicats,’ who did a lot of recording, nightclub work and touring. The leader of The Harmonicats, Jerry Murad, did come to one of our festivals once.”

The overall goal of the organization is to ensure that these harmonica greats aren’t lost on history.

“It’s a specific type of music that we don’t want to see lost, let’s put it that way,” Keblesh said.

The Rubber Capital Harmonica Club collects dues of $12 a year, but members say that anyone can come, play and listen for free, without committing to the dues. They’ve also waived the fee for members over the age of 80.

The group meets on Monday evenings at 7 p.m. at North Springfield Presbyterian Church at 671 Canton Road in Akron.

The club will perform Oct. 8 at Briarwood Healthcare Center at 3700 Englewood Dr. in Stow and Thursday, Oct. 23 at Blessed Trinity Church at 300 E. Tallmadge Ave. in Akron.

For more information on the Rubber Capital Harmonica Club, contact Duane Gisewhite at 330-283-8545.