For Petaluma seniors, Los Gu’achis provides entertainment

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Barbara Arhon started playing the violin as a girl growing up in Los Angeles. Musically gifted, she pursued other instruments and gave up playing the bow and strings for 45 years.

Then, in 2005, after relocating to Petaluma, Arhon picked right up where she left off and resumed her violin etudes. Three years after that, she gathered some musical friends and formed Los Gu’achis, an instrumental band playing music of the southwest, early California and Mexico.

The quintet (there are now four members) has played in festivals, theaters, libraries, galleries, restaurants, and, for the past eight years, has had a standing monthly gig at Petaluma senior centers. The group will typically play a lunchtime set at the senior center on Howard Street and on Novak Drive, providing accompaniment to a group of elderly residents that typically doesn’t get out to much live entertainment, Arhon said.

“It’s fun,” she said. “They enjoy it. They get up and dance and clap to our music.”

For their efforts to entertain Petaluma’s elderly, Los Gu’achis was honored with the Service to Seniors award at the Petaluma Community Awards of Excellence.

Besides Arhon on violin, the group is currently made up of Chris Samson on rhythm guitar, Steve Della Maggiora on accordion and Stephen Tamborski, who plays stringed instruments including mandolin and bass.

Arhon is a former junior high school teacher and teaches music in Petaluma schools. Samson is a former editor of the Argus-Courier who also performs solo and released an album of his own songs, “In My Own Time.” Della Maggiora has played multiple instruments professionally for more than 30 years, performing in bands from rock and oldies to folk, bluegrass and big-band jazz. Tamborski began playing guitar in 1963, playing with the trio The Artifacts, The Big Tamborski, Zighi Baci and others.

Elece Hempel, director of Petaluma People Services Center, nominated Los Gu’achis for the award, saying that they brighten the day for many local seniors.

“By sharing their time, seniors in Petaluma not only know they are loved, but also give them a reason to get up and dance a bit too,” she wrote. “One of the goals to make Petaluma a great place to age is that the community works together to make sure that every senior is able to age in place, and by volunteering at PPSC’s programs, Los Gu’achis is able to make sure seniors have something to do.”

Arhon, for her part, said the recognition was nice, but she and her band would play their music regardless of the awards.

“It’s an honor,” she said. “We don’t expect awards for playing our music for seniors.”

(Contact Matt Brown at

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