Dr. Larry Schwab, who turns 67 on Sept. 12, is making history as a full-fledged member of West Virginia University's famed Mountaineer Marching Band.
The Kingwood native, who's on Medicare, will be blowing an instrument in the 375-piece unit for the 12th year. That stretch started in 1958-62 when he was an undergraduate, studying for his bachelor's degree. Thirty-eight years later he decided to rejoin the band at the turn of the century.Dr. Larry Schwab, who turns 67 on Sept. 12, is making history as a full-fledged member of West Virginia University's famed Mountaineer Marching Band.
The Kingwood native, who's on Medicare, will be blowing an instrument in the 375-piece unit for the 12th year. That stretch started in 1958-62 when he was an undergraduate, studying for his bachelor's degree. Thirty-eight years later he decided to rejoin the band at the turn of the century.
"In college, my extracurricular activities were all centered around music," Schwab recalled. "I wasn't a member of a fraternity or any other campus organization.
"I loved music and went to all the games, and that's where things crossed with the WVU band. I enjoyed it so much that for 38 years I thought and even talked to wife Martha about it."
So in the year of 2000, at the age of 60, he began to think about little health issues. That made him realize if he didn't do something about it, something might happen and he might not have the opportunity.
Mrs. Schwab and their three grown children threw their full support behind his decision. So did those with whom he still works in Regional Eye Associates, less than a mile from Mountaineer Field/Milan Puskar Stadium.
William Doddrill, then a retired WVU professor, tried a similar stint in 1999. But he spent just two years with the band.
Schwab said, "I don't know of another college with a band member as old as I am. The Medicare and student cards are my favorites."
WVU band director Jay Drury said, "All the band members really admire Larry. They look up to him. Larry works very hard. He loves the band, and he does everything that the others do."
What's more, Schwab also is a leader of a rank of 14 musicians. He plays a trumpet and is responsible for making sure those in his section line up in the right spots.
Drury said, "It just helps inspire them when they see somebody who's had such a successful career, and a life like he has, to come out, obviously many years older, and go through the same work they do.
"They really appreciate him, look up to him, and I know they admire him. He's such a great guy. He cares about everybody, and he's very well-liked by the whole band."
Schwab said, "The reasons to do it all belongs to the association with musicians that play music, and even during rehearsals I enjoy it very much,"
To qualify as a student, he takes a one-hour course in band per semester (cost $300). But it actually entails eight hours of practice on the field during the week. Then it's 10 hours on a game day in the fall.
Besides playing in the Mountaineer Marching Band, Schwab also is among about 35 musicians who form the WVU Pep Band and play at basketball games in the Coliseum. They also play at postseason tournaments for both the men and women.
A graduate of the WVU School of Medicine, Schwab recently cut back his hours in the ophthalmology practice and even adjusted his schedule for band requirements. He attended band camp from Aug. 11-18. Now that school is in session, there is a two-hour rehearsal Tuesday through Friday.
"That gets you outside with the marching band's programmed activity, and you have some fresh air and exercises," he noted. "I love it. I have built friendships in the band -- friendships that are different from friendships with your peers -- although I consider myself as just another person playing a horn.
"But I interact with the students at a level where we both can enjoy and respect each other and play music together. So the relationships have been great. I have some really good pals in the band."
The doctor has been practicing medicine for 41 years. That included stints for the International Eye Foundation in Africa. There he taught eye care to health professionals.
Schwab did his intern training at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. But he then was drafted for military service and sent to Vietnam. He spent a year there, attached to an Army battalion, and served a short hitch in a small surgical hospital.
"It's just a joy working with young people that are enthusiastic," he said. "I'm beginning to feel (the taxing pace) a little at 67, but no more than I expected.
"Anyway, I think the exercise is helpful."
Larry and Martha have been married 41 years and have been very active in the Morgantown community.