Legendary percussionist Viola Smith is now 106 and actively drumming until quite recently in a Costa Mesa band named Forever Young. Born Viola Schmitz in November, 1912, in Wisconsin, she was one of ten kids. The whole family studied piano, and in the 1920s her dad got Viola and her six sisters together to form the Smith Sisters Orchestra. They were first widely noticed when they performed on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, a 1930s radio version of America's Got Talent.


After moving to New York City, she joined the Phil Spitainy's Hour of Charm Orchestra, another all-girls orchestra. Her ability to read music fluently and overall musicianship earned her a spot with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. After playing at President Harry Truman's inauguration in 1949, she formed her own band called "Viola and Her 17 Drums." She then turned her attention to Broadway, where she played in the original production of Cabaret. She still believes regular exercise (preferably playing drums) is a secret to long life.