April 5, 2022 By Liz Wildberger & Jerry Hedrick

Best Friends Forever (BFF)

Bill Doherty started it all when, in 1998, he talked to Bob Briggs, who had retired as conductor of the UC Berkeley Marching Band, moved to Fairfield, and formed a band known as Solano Winds. Bill happened to mention Paradise Valley Estates, a retirement community that was new to the area. He said that a trumpeter was needed to sound taps for a patriotic program, and he was the choice based on a recommendation by Fairfield High School’s director of the marching band.

This sounded intriguing to Briggs, who immediately called PVE and asked to speak to the resident events planner, who at that time was Liz Wildberger. He outlined his plan to use PVE as a sort of a “dress rehearsal” venue for a concert Solano Winds was preparing for the Downtown Theater. PVE’s executive director gave his consent, and the musical collaboration was under way.

In early days, the resident activities person was in charge of welcoming the audience and the band, and giving a short introduction to the program, a “pops” program devoted to band music that had been scored for wind instruments. The audience was attentive; Solano Winds played, and tradition was established. It was then that band member Otto Vasak, who was also a resident of PVE and past president of the Resident Council, expressed appreciation of the band’s performance by a generous financial support.

Briggs considered conducting his primary role and he invited Liz to become their host, injecting humor to accuracy in preparation. The script was developed jointly by the conductor and the now host of Solano Winds and it continued that way until the death of Robert Briggs, after which Bill Doherty was named conductor, and Liz was invited to stay on. Finally, in 2018, Liz retired for the second time, and Jerry Hedrick became the “Voice of Solano Winds.” Liz still wrote the scripts which Jerry delivered in his own inimitable style, until Covid forced the Solano Winds to silence and that persisted until 2021 when a “pop-up” series of small ensembles arose under the auspices of the Wellness Department.

The Solano Winds/Residents Council tradition continued, when the band, represented by the brass ensemble recently presented a Christmas concert in the Learning Center. We can’t wait for the entire Solano Winds concert band to return to PVE.


Want to receive a monthly round-up of our most popular posts?