Growing up in Northeast Philadelphia, Bob Galbraith, now 62, always had an instrument to play - and more often than not, a group to play with.
For more than 25 years of playing with the Bucks County Folksong Society in Pennsylvania and other musical groups through the years, the dental equipment salesman grew to love the idea of togetherness for the sake of music, especially folk.
But once Galbraith moved to Brigantine full time seven years ago, he noticed a lack of folk music groups in the surrounding area.
"I've always wanted to have that kind of outlet down here," Galbraith said from his living room chair, seated next to his three acoustic guitars on display.
"I met lifelong friends (playing in Bucks County)," he said. "It was wonderful with everyone having the same background and enjoyment (for the genre)."
On March 7, both friends and unfamiliar faces, virtuosos and novices, joined Galbraith at the Brigantine Community Center for his first ever folk group meeting.
"One lady said her guitar was under her bed for so many years, and that's exactly what we want."
Galbraith has not let his guitar gather dust for long. As an 8-year-old, he learned accordion, but as a teen, gravitated toward the guitar and has not put it down since. While going to school in New Hampshire, he played in a jug band, with sounds comparable to "bluegrass for mountain people."
Galbraith has played weddings as well as with the South Jersey Irish Ceili Band, frequently performing in Somers Point.
But Galbraith wanted to focus on bringing music closer to home.
Almost 15 people arrived for the introductory gathering, said Jim Mogan, director of Brigantine's Community Education and Recreation Program. Mogan oversees every new program, and, Galbraith said, welcomed him with open arms.
Galbraith hopes to increase the size of the group to a solid 25 to 30 people.
"I got quite a few emails from people looking forward to joining it in the future," he said, so his goal may not be far off.
One optimistic group member, Joey McGowan, 57, of Egg Harbor Township, expects the group to grow to 50 people.
McGowan has been a part of the folk scene his entire life, he said. When he lived in Hoboken, just a short distance from New York's folk haven of Greenwich Village, he worked the sound in clubs for rising folk musicians, he said.
"I've always been involved," said McGowan, who also hosts weekly open mic nights at Ventnor's Malelani's Cafe.
For now, the group is unofficially called the Brigantine Folksong Society, but Galbraith said he is open for suggestions, depending which way the group flows.
Loose in structure, the plan for each meeting involves a "circle sing in which each person takes a turn to play." People can play along or allow the musician a solo. Galbraith said they would go around three or four times.
Galbraith acknowledged the differences in playing abilities but stressed that it did not matter if attendees could play or not. He expects to see acoustic guitars, fiddles, banjos and even voices. But he wants to open the group to anyone merely wanting to listen.
Galbraith knows the group jams will let beginners better their skills, allowing them the chance to imitate and play along with the more experienced.
"It forces you when you play along to keep up so your fingers get faster," he said.
Folk music, he says, is "for the people, by the people."
Once the group becomes more solidified, the Brigantine resident hopes to bring the group to nursing homes and small concert venues to perform publicly.
Before that step, Galbraith dreams of simply orchestrating a gathering of like-minded people to enjoy the historic genre.
"It's a wonderful way to get past all the boundaries that we put on ourselves and expectations. Folk music is a great way to just get rid of that stuff and enjoy each other."
Contact Caitlin Honan:
If you go
What: Brigantine folk music group
When: 6 to 9 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month. The next meeting will be April 4.
Where: Brigantine Beach Community Center, 265 42nd St.
How much: Free
More info: Call the center at 609-264-7350 or email Galbraith at firstname.lastname@example.org.