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Founder of the New Horizons Program

Behind every great idea, movement or event, there usually stands one person who is the inspiration, the guiding light and the driving force for making it happen. Such is the case with the New Horizons movement, founded by Roy Ernst, Ph.D. His leadership and untiring work are directly responsible for the many New Horizons bands, orchestras and other musical ensembles now in existence.

The following was written by Dr. Ernst (slightly edited) for the Introduction to “New Horizons 2004”, a book about many of the New Horizons bands and orchestras that have been created since the early 1990’s.

I confess that in the late 1980s, when I was just thinking about starting a music program for retired adults, I thought, “Well, we would want to give concerts, but probably no one would come.”

I was so wrong. You will find that New Horizons bands and orchestras become important parts of their communities, performing in many different settings and for large audiences. The children and grandchildren of the New Horizons musicians often travel long distances to attend New Horizons concerts; it’s payback time.

When I started the first New Horizons band in 1991, my philosophy was that anyone can learn to play music at a level that will bring a sense of accomplishment and the ability to perform in a group. Thousands of New Horizons musicians have proven that to be true, many starting in their late retirement years with no musical background at all. I recently met a person who was starting clarinet as a beginner at the age of 89.

Another aspect of my philosophy for New Horizons is that the style of instruction must be completely supportive and free of competition and intimidation. New Horizons directors feel liberated and find new enjoyment in teaching when they don’t have to give grades, take groups to competitive festivals and have participants compete for seating in a section. My motto is, “Your best is good enough.”

The goal of New Horizons groups is to create an entry point to group music-making for adult beginners and a comfortable re-entry point for adults who played music in school and would like to resume after long years of building careers and raising children.

Beyond the philosophy and goal of New Horizons music, there are no requirements for how a New Horizons program should be organized. When individuals or groups want to start a New Horizons program, I encourage them to look at what others have done and then design a program based on the unique resources of their own area. The result is a rich variety of New Horizons music programs with different schedules, organization and events.

I want to thank the members of NAMM (International Music Products Association) and NABIM (International Band and Orchestral Products Association) for their support of New Horizons music-making from the very start and through all these years.

Roy Ernst, Ph.D.
Founder of the New Horizons Program
Director, The New Horizons Music Project
Professor Emeritus, The Eastman School of Music
The University of Rochester
September 2004

[The PDF file to the right is entitled “Music and Your Health“ and was presented at a workshop given by Dr. Roy Ernst in April 2011 in Ohio.]