Although the Magnolia Jazz Band regularly performs with up to six musicians, the nucleus of the band is Robbie Schlosser, cornet & string bass; Gary Milliken, clarinet; and Andy Norblin, guitar & banjo.
Robbie Schlosser formed the Magnolia Jazz Band in 1975, as music was his main hobby up to then. He began learning violin in the third grade, cornet the next year, and string bass 27 years later. During high school and college, Robbie’s musical interests focused on playing cornet in marching bands and French horn in concert bands and orchestras.
After college he lived in New York state and worked as a scientist and a science teacher. He also played occasionally with several informal dixieland bands, including one named “The South Happiness Street Society Skiffle Band”.
Robbie moved to northern California in the early ’70s, to pursue graduate work at Stanford University. In his spare time, he joined the South Bay Traditional Jazz Society, where he met many musicians he would work with over the next 30-plus years.
Robbie performs nearly every day with the Magnolia Jazz Band, and he manages the band’s business. The Bay Area traditionally boasts plenty of wonderful musicians and lots of parties, and Robbie learned early that he preferred local work to life “on the road”. Still, when time permits, he enjoys an occasional out-of-town performance with a few well-known musicians across the country.
In the early 1980’s, the Magnolia Jazz Band made seven recordings, toured through the west coast, the midwest and the east coast, and was a popular favorite at many jazz festivals.
During those years, Robbie performed occasionally with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in New Orleans. A few years later, he worked as a regular member of the Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, performing on a PBS TV special, several international cruises and jazz festivals, and numerous special concerts across the country. From 1991-1997, he appeared regularly with the Butch Thompson Trio, which received national fame on Garrison Keillor’s PBS radio program, “A Prairie Home Companion”.
Robbie still free-lances occasionally with other local bands, and he keeps in touch with dozens of musicians each month. He continually learns from all his fellow jazzmen, and every day brings something new.
Gary Milliken began playing clarinet at the age of eight, and has played in countless musical settings since then. As a music major at San Jose State University, he worked in every type of ensemble, from medieval consorts to experimental electronics — but jazz was always his first love. He played in the saxophone sections of many big bands, but he now devotes himself solely to his first instrument, the clarinet.
Gary taught music theory at Foothill College in the late 1970s, but decided to work instead in the computer industry for his main occupation, and play music as a “night job”. He first met Robbie in the early 1970s, and occasionally worked in the original Magnolia Jazz Band during that decade. In 1979, Gary began playing with the Magnolia trio and has been associated with them ever since.
For a brief period in the mid-1980s, Gary joined the popular traditional band Professor Plum’s Jazz, touring extensively and playing alongside such guests as George Probert and Peanuts Hucko. He has also played with various Bay Area groups including the Abalone Stompers, Big Mama Sue, and the Hot Club of San Francisco. Gary’s self-produced CD, Manresa, is available through the Magnolia Jazz Band and at our appearances.
Andy Norblin first played with Magnolia in 1988. Back in the late 1950s, enthralled by movies like “Rock Around the Clock”, he started playing guitar at age 14. Andy put himself through college in the early 60’s by playing in local rock n’ roll and dance bands.
Graduating with a degree in Economics and a teaching credential, he taught elementary, middle school, and junior college Economics for several years. All the while, he continued working as a musician, both on guitar and banjo, primarily with the Tolleson Music Organization in San Francisco.
In 1987 he left teaching to concentrate on his first love — playing music. Andy has since worked with numerous groups around San Francisco, including the Bay Area Ramblers, Royal Street, Fog City, Big Mama Sue, and the Nob Hill Sounds.
In 2003 he received critical acclaim for his first CD, Andy Norblin and Friends, showcasing the wide range of his talents on guitar. In 2006 he toured for five months with “Bill Haley’s Original Comets”, culminating in a six week stay in Branson, Missouri, for the opening of the Dick Clark American Bandstand Theater. He was featured with the Comets on the PBS-Television show “Branson Jubilee,” and he has been the featured guest on several Bay Area television shows.
Born in India and living around San Francisco for most of his life, Andy now resides in San Jose’s Almaden Valley.