Staying in tune with Christmas: Whirlpool Holiday Band strikes a chord at The Whitcomb

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — Joe Zahrn sang and danced Friday in front of residents at the Whitcomb Tower Retirement Residence in downtown St. Joseph.

Zahrn, a Whirlpool project delivery leader, was there with the Whirlpool Holiday Band, playing Christmas songs and spreading holiday cheer.

The band is comprised of 18 Whirlpool employees and retirees who spent their Friday playing at each Whirlpool building in the Twin Cities from 7 a.m. through the later part of the afternoon. They ended their day at The Whitcomb in style.

Dressed in red and black garb, band members played festive music to a crowd of more than 50. Among them were a drum set, bells, a keyboard, guitar, bass, flute, trombone and violin. A trio of singers choreographed a few moves, which included Zahrn moving among the tables at The Whitcomb, serenading a front-row attendee in the process.

“I tend to see people I have seen in the past here, so it’s great to connect with them,” said Zahrn, who joined the band in the late 1990s. “I am just thrilled to be a part of this. To take one day off from doing everything we do, it feels great to provide entertainment for others.”

The Whirlpool Holiday Band has been making its rounds and playing Christmas jingles that range from “Silver Bells” to a little diddy about a reindeer with a red nose for more than 50 years. The band normally holds only two practices in the week leading up to the seven shows they do in one day.

Ron Gallert, a technology consultant at the St. Joseph Technology Center, runs the band in his spare time. Like Zahrn, he also joined the band 19 years ago.

“I pick up the trumpet two weeks of every year for this,” he said. “I played in grade school and high school, but now I don’t play it at any other time than around Christmas. It’s great because you get to play music and not go to work.”

The band doesn’t have a lot of turnover, Gallert said. This year the appliance making company produced two new members, which included a concert violinist.

Most of the people have been in the band for at least five years, though, as Gallert said he doesn’t recruit new members. He said he gets some emails throughout the year if somebody hears somebody wants to join.

“For those of us who don’t play on a regular basis, we are whipped by the end of the day,” Gallert said. “This is by far the most appreciative crowd we come across (at The Whitcomb). However, we did have sizeable crowds each place we went.”

Steve Pearson, a guitarist and lead engineer, said in his years playing at the different Whirlpool locations, he’s noticed co-workers, directors and higher-up executives get into the Christmas spirit when the band plays.

“With some of the upper level management who play with us, if you look at their daily calendar, they are triple-booked for most of the day for meetings,” Pearson said. “But there isn’t a practice or a gig they have missed in years. That gives you a level of importance. Today we had general managers and vice presidents listening to us.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 12, 2015)


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