Concept and Philosophy

New Horizons Music programs provide entry points to music making for adults, including those with no musical experience at all and also those who were active in school music programs but have been inactive for a long period. Many adults would like an opportunity to learn music in a group setting similar to that offered in schools. New Horizons Music programs provide music instruction at all levels from beginner to advanced. 

The first New Horizons program at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York was designed to serve the senior population. Many New Horizons programs are designed specifically for senior adults and have minimum age requirement of 50, but others are open to adults of any age. The policy of one of the New Horizons programs is “If you consider yourself to be an adult, you’re eligible.” A New Horizons Music program should be inclusive rather than exclusive. Every person has musical potential that can be developed to a level that will be personally rewarding. 

New Horizons programs differ from traditional community bands, orchestras and choirs by offering programs to adults at all music levels from beginner to advanced. Many people who start in New Horizons programs go on to join other community bands, orchestras and choirs. New Horizons groups become important parts of the cultural life of the community by giving formal concerts, performances in shopping malls, retirement and nursing homes, and summer concerts in parks. The first New Horizons program in 1991 was a band, but since then New Horizons orchestras, choruses and many other smaller ensembles have been created. 


Active participation in music fills important needs for adults – challenging intellectual activity, being a contributing member of a group, and participating in exciting events.  For many people, music can serve these vital needs better than anything else. Here is what some participants say:

  • "Being retired and widowed I joined the band to have something to do. Now I don’t know what I would do without it."

  • "This comes at a time in life when you have the time to devote to it. When you join the band, you stick with it. Not many people drop out. It’s something that holds you."

  • "Next to my family, certainly, the musical activity is the most important thing in my life."

Adults participating in New Horizons Music programs meet new friends and become an important part of a group. They have events to look forward to – concerts to play, concerts to attend, and trips. Strong friendships are formed in New Horizons programs (and there have been several marriages).

Music provides opportunities for deep contemplation, a way of experiencing a broad range of emotions including serious thoughts or joyful moments. It makes connections to the past, the present, and the future. Music is a way of making vital connections to life.

There is a growing body of evidence that music making supports good mental and physical health. Gerontologists have long known that socialization is an important factor for good health. The evidence is also strong that the “use it or lose it” principle applies to mental abilities as well as physical abilities. The constant mental challenge of learning music is an ideal form of exercise for our brains. Early studies indicate that music making can reduce depression and increase the strength of the immune system.  

Sponsoring organizations for New Horizons Music programs include music dealerships, schools, community music schools, college music departments, recreation centers, and senior centers. New Horizons ensembles perform frequently in the community and increase the visibility of the host organization. New Horizons events are often publicized.