Ross and Pete spreading jazz time at a social event near you

“My dad was into Dixieland jazz,” said the boy from Chicago.

“I just wanted to play the drums,” said the kid from Iowa.

Today, Ross Anderson and Pete Lothringer are miles away from their original musical roots here in Marshall, Minnesota. No longer kids, but accomplished musicians.

If you go to a lot of social events in Marshall, you probably have listened to the music of Ross and Pete.

Anderson and Lothringer are two longtime musicians who play musical instruments whenever, wherever they can. The musical duo have played together since 2004.

I caught up with them at the President’s Holiday Social at Southwest Minnesota State University in December.

As guests walked around testing the various hors d’oeuvres and sampled the wines, the Ross and Pete show provided atmosphere music. With pages of music lying at his feet, Anderson played his saxophone. Lothringer plucked his guitar.

When they finally took a break, I asked my first question

“What’s your regular job,” I asked Anderson.

“As little as possible,” he said. And I laughed.

But he actually has done a lot — not just in music.

“I worked 20 years as an auto mechanic,” Anderson said. “That was my day job, while my wife was going to grad school. We lived in the Twin Cities for a long time. I played in some of the road houses up there — rock ‘n’ roll bands while working my day job. I worked at a Lincoln Mercury dealership for awhile. Like he (Lothringer) said, it’s a long and twisted path. I left Chicago when I was 17. I grew up there.”

Of course, Lothringer’s twisted path was a little bit different.

“I just wanted to play the drums when I was a kid,” he said. “I finally got some. I was a drummer for a long time. And I really just taught myself for the most part and learned from friends. I really didn’t do it formally in school or anything. More of the basement, garage band. Just learn off records.”

Anderson could relate.

“That’s how I played jazz too, by wearing out vinyl records. Literally wearing out vinyl records,” he said.

“I played banjo for awhile. Picked up the guitar a long the way,” Lothringer said. He told the Independent back in 2014 that he made a living as a drummer during the 1970s and ’80s. And was also a bluegrass banjo player for a few years in the 1980s.

Unlike Anderson, Lothringer does have a day job. He’s an adjunct professor at SMSU where he teachers music theory and composition. He composed the music for Pioneer Public TV’s popular documentary “Country Spires.”

“I played for bands for years,” he said. “I might be playing in a gig up here with a tuba player, but mostly it’s me and Ross. I compose though. I write for the Southwest Orchestra. That’s where a lot of my music energy goes.”

Both said playing at social events provides for a soothing atmosphere for the guests.

“We get hired at events like this where people are talking,” Lothringer said. “Social hour kind of a thing. Then we get to do concerts too. Concerts in the park where people will just come out. If they don’t talk, they listen.”

Anderson handed me their CD called “JazzTime.”

And for a few hours on the SMSU campus, it was jazz time.

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