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Finding Minnesota: The Musical Life Of Al Sweet

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - A Twin Cities man may be the youngest 93-year-old you've ever met.

Al Sweet, of Edina, isn't letting age keep him from his passion. He plays trombone in a local band. He also composes and writes music.

"I started when I was in 5th grade, 12 years old. I'm now 93," Sweet said. "That's 81 years, isn't it."

Something about the trombone always played to Sweet's musical abilities.

"All instruments are nice but the trombone is nicer," Sweet said.

His proficiency with the slide horn created a love of melody that became instrumental in his career.

"I was teaching band. It was a fun job, and you meet so many interesting people in music," Sweet said.

So, when the sound of music began to create unbearable pain, Sweet had a difficult decision -- get out of music or go deaf.

"I had some injury during the war, and I guess it caught up with me," Sweet said. "It was a blast, gunfire. Guns are loud and airplane engines are loud. The combo of the two got to me. I had such pain in my ears. I couldn't tolerate the level of sound in the band room."

Around the same time Sweet stopped teaching music, he also put down his instrument. For years, his trombone sat idle even though Sweet did not.

He began writing arrangements for bands and orchestras, eventually transitioning into music composition.

"That kept my hand in music," Sweet said.

Few know the difficulty of his numbers like the St. Louis Park Community band.

"I've written five or six things they've done," Sweet said.

For 25 years, the musicians have motivated him to create and compose.

"He's brilliant. He's had so much exposure to music that he understands the mechanics of music and how to do that," said Sieglinde Grivna, a member of the St. Louis Park Community Band.

His pieces challenge his bandmates but also tend to inspire.

"I had to practice at home quite a bit to get ready for the performance piece," said April Booth, a trombone player in the band. "He incorporates fun parts for us into his music as well."

Eventually, Sweet found a way back into music unwilling to let the war keep him from his passion.

Now a vital member of the band, this 93-year-old knows there's more music in him to create more Sweet sounds.

"As long as it's fun and I can still play, I'll continue to do it," Sweet said.

"I truly think that's why he's lived this long," Grivna said. "He's found that passion."

Bands around the country have played Sweet's musical compositions.

If you want to see him play in person, the St. Louis Park Community Band has several concerts throughout the summer. Click here for more information.

Click here to send us your Finding Minnesota ideas.

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