ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Learning a new melody can be tricky, but Dr. David Dines does it with ease on his six-string guitar. “I’d say on the basis of 10, I think I’m a 6 or 7,” joked Dines. He’s been taking guitar lessons once a week for the past six years with instructor Ben Gateno.
“Oh, boy. When I play some of these songs I really feel that I’m accomplishing something,” smiled Dines.
A retired Mayo Clinic pulmonologist in critical care, Dines first picked up a guitar in the 1940s. “I enlisted in the Marine Corps when I was 17. There was always a Marine playing the guitar and singing, and I decided when I got out in ’46 that I wanted to do that too.”
At 93 years old, Dines is Gateno’s oldest student. However, it wasn’t Dines’s age that surprised his teacher; it was his desire to learn challenging music. “Sometimes I’ll write the melodies out for him, and sometimes he’ll say no. He’ll give it back and want it in a tougher key,” laughed Gateno. “He’s the best student you could hope for, exactly what you hope for in a guitar student.”
If you sit in on a lesson, you’ll hear a lot of folk songs and stories from Dines’s storied life. “I’ve gained inspiration from him as far as how to live my life better,” said his instructor. The highlight for Gateno is playing on Dines’s 1950 Martin guitar; Dines plays on one from 1948. Both instruments are in remarkably great condition, with minor scratches that are the result of time and wear.
Impressed with his skills, Gateno asked Dines if he wanted to record an album for his family for Christmas. That was in October 2018. Dines enthusiastically said yes. The result: 16 songs recorded by the duo from inside Dines’s home at the Charter House. It was an instant hit with his family and friends.
“When you get old, you gotta have things to do to keep your mind up so that you just don’t fade away,” reflected Dines, who evidently wants to keep his mind in top shape considering album number two is already in the works.
“I’m a great believer in happiness and playing the guitar really gives me happiness.”