AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! CLAREMONT – Beneath a surrogate spotlight, Chet Jaeger and his Santa-capped compatriots assemble to coax Christmas music from their horns. Although Jaeger has, in his 81 years, performed around the world, on Tuesday night his stage was an empty suburban street in Claremont. Rehearsal was brief: a couple bursts of breath through the horn players’ mouthpieces. “All right, let’s go,” Jaegar said to his nine trumpeters, trombonists, baritonists and tuba players before launching into a short set of Christmas songs. For 65 years, Jaeger has led his ad hoc band of brass-blowers in brightening the Inland Valley in the days running up to Christmas Eve. It’s a band of multiple generations of Jaegers. His daughter, Holly Proulx, fingers the valves of a baritone while her brother George Jaeger stretches the trombone. Under a heap of tuba is Chet Jaeger’s 18-year-old grandson, Casey Proulx. Although being a Jaeger is not a requirement to be in the band, having an educational background seems to be a well-regarded qualification. Chet taught math at Chaffey High School – the same subject taught by his father, a former Claremont mayor, at Pomona College. George Jaeger is a principal in Alhambra. Among the non-Jaegers: George Keeler of Claremont and Bill Brinegar of Upland. Keeler is a professor at the University of La Verne and Brinegar an assistant superintendent for Bonita Unified. “If you’re a musician, and you’re not working as a musician, it’s the time of the year to have a little fun with it,” Brinegar said. “It’s the only time of the year I take the horn out of the case.” For two weeks prior to their annual reunion, Keeler said he practices furiously after midnight to retrain his lips. The band performs in front of homes, on street corners, at fire stations and churches. On a recent evening, the band poured out of a Chevy Suburban – license plate “Jazzmen” – in front of Jill Patchen’s home on Benedict Avenue. The Jaeger family’s musical inclination preceded Chet as well. His parents, a talented banjo and piano duet, wanted him to learn the piano. “I tried to play for a couple of years, and I was a total flop,” he said. After finding a horn buried in a La Verne orange grove in 1938, Chet’s path was set after he was able to pull a couple of notes out of it. With a penchant for Dixieland jazz, he formed his first band two years later at 16 and it has existed in one form or another up to his present-day band, the Night Blooming Jazzmen. That same year, he organized the first holiday group which, with few exceptions, has performed every year since 1940. While assigned to a remote Chinese outpost during World War II, Chet Jaeger did miss two Christmases. Performing in the run-up to Christmas has Jaeger as busy as fronting for the Night Blooming Jazzmen does year-round. Tonight, the group has an ambitious itinerary. The band will perform at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. at Claremont Presbyterian Church, play for firefighters from 9 to 10 p.m., followed by a 10:30 p.m. gig at United Church of Christ Congregational Church. “A few years ago, I couldn’t imagine doing this at 80,” Chet Jaeger said. “But here I am, 81. I guess I can keep going another two or three years.” [email protected] (909) 483-8555.