Celebrating Senior Musicians of Santa Cruz County, CA



Sena Knornschild


Photo by Jane Hancock

Sena Knornschild, 2003







Sena Knornschild
Singer, Band Leader, Accordion Player, and Guitar Picker

Asenath Knornschild was born in Paonia, a remote little valley in southwestern Colorado, in 1921. She grew up on a farm that produced fruit, raspberries and hay. The youngest of six children, Sena remembers singing a lot with her family for entertainment. Her father loved to whistle and had a beautiful tenor voice; her mother played old time fiddle, and taught Sena a few tunes on the family organ. Blessed with a good ear, Sena taught herself to play chords and melody at the same time on the keyboard. At age twenty she was then able to pick up the piano accordion.

Sena as a teenager

Sena married her childhood sweetheart, Russell Rheuby, who played guitar. Their first band was a trio with Russell's brother, Floyd. During the 1940s, Russell was called to service and Sena joined her brother-in-law in the Bay Area, playing six days a week for servicemen in clubs and USO shows. After the war, Russell and Sena settled for good in Watsonville. They started their band, the Saddle Serenaders (later shortened to the Serenaders) and played around the Bay Area, including spots at the Santa Cruz County Fair and on the radio.

Sena in 1960

Sena and her husband raised a son, Alan, and she has a grandson, Josh, and a great granddaughter, Karissa. Sena also worked for the County Office of Education for 20 years as a special education aide, using music in the classroom. It was a great satisfaction to Sena that although some of the kids wouldn't speak, she could reach them through music and get them to sing.

Sena in action with the Silvertones

In her retirement, Sena has led the Silvertones band for almost twenty years, playing weekly at the Watsonville Senior Center lunches and countless senior events and dances throughout the county. She also performs monthly at the Mid-County Choraliers Sunday shows, and has appeared in various Seniorama productions. Sena frequently plays at senior homes such as Valley Convalescent Home and Valley Heights. For fun on the side, she plays in an all-ukulele group called the Heartstrings.

"Music," says Sena, "keeps me young at heart."