Musical Dreams Become Reality for Seniors
New Horizons International Music Association
Photo by James Cubberly
New Horizons Band Rehearsal in St. Catherines, ON
J.D. Woods arranges his sheet music on the stand awaiting the director to start rehearsing the band. Woods, 77, is a trumpet player who first began learning his instrument eight years ago. His seat mate, Bill Schwartz, 65, played his trumpet previous to joining the band. Woods, playing second trumpet, and Schwartz, playing first, are preparing for a concert. They are musicians in rehearsal with 60 other senior band members in one of the New Horizons Bands, this one located in Saline, Michigan.
The New Horizons International Music Association (NHIMA) is a worldwide organization comprised of over 200 New Horizons groups whose 9,000 members are over the age of 50. Some played music during their school years and stashed their instrument in a closet or attic while the demands of work and raising children took center stage. Others dreamt of being a musician but never had the opportunity or the money to pay for lessons and instruments when they were school age. Both groups find themselves now at or near retirement with children grown and gone, fewer responsibilities, but just as much desire.
For over twenty years, the New Horizons Music program has helped musical groups form to give seniors an opportunity to learn (or re-learn) how to play an instrument or become active in other musical endeavors. There are opportunities in band, orchestra, choral, and small ensembles, for example. These music groups provide the environments and the positive experiences conducive to learning musical skills and techniques in comfortable social settings. The New Horizons philosophy, “Your best is good enough”, is the overarching umbrella that captures the positive spirit necessary for senior musicians to engage and succeed.
Learning to play an instrument and perform in a group gives seniors many tangible as well as intangible benefits. Research has confirmed that actively putting music in your life improves mental health, lowers blood pressure, exercises the brain, and provides a sense of satisfaction and well-being.
Just listening to a Concert Band or Orchestra can be a moving experience, but actually sitting in the midst of one for the first time in many years can be quite startling. Cathy Patience of Longmont, Colorado relates a typical reaction. “As a teenager, band activities were a major part of my life. After not playing my clarinet for 38 years, I joined the Desert Foothills New Horizons Band. I will never forget the feeling I had at my first rehearsal – I felt like a part of me that had been dead came alive again.”
Learning, playing, and performing together is a transforming experience; new friendships are formed with fellow musicians. As Harlene Arnett, a member of the Peterborough New Horizons Band in Canada said, “… the best thing is I’ve found a whole new family of genuine caring friends. There are only my daughter and I still here so it’s good to know there is an external family nearby if we need them.” Many members find that participating in New Horizons musical weekly activities is an important part of their daily lives; in many instances, the camaraderie and team work help members cope with the loss of a loved one.
NHIMA says it is easy to be a part of a New Horizons group. Go to their website to locate a group in your area. Anyone is invited to sit in on a rehearsal to see the New Horizons philosophy in action. If there isn’t a nearby group, new ones are continually starting when there is awareness of the program and local interest; New Horizons has a Planning Guide that provides step-by-step guidance through the process.
Visit the website www.newhorizonsmusic.org for more information on the many aspects of the New Horizons Music program and to contact the organization.