Most people begin playing instruments as young children, their parents toting them to and from music lessons and school performances, hoping that one day their child might become a famous concert pianist or symphony composer.
New Horizons International Music Association is a non-profit, 501c(3) organization that provides music education programs to adults, including those with no musical experience at all or those who haven’t picked up their instrument in a long time. The group allows adults the opportunity to learn music in a group setting similar to those offered in primary schools, simulating a childhood musical experience. There are currently over 200 New Horizons programs internationally.
Jim Adkins, a music instructor and band conductor for the local chapter — New Horizons Band of Summit and Stark Counties, says the group dynamic is a large factor in New Horizons’ success.
“Each member is contributing to the success of the ensemble and feels satisfaction in our advancement through performance,” he says. “Advertising this opportunity for adults in the local newspaper attracted a small group of excited folks who became, in a very short time, the nucleus of a concert band.”
The local chapter of New Horizons began in 2003 with just a few members taking classes in two host locations and eventually grew to 40 members in the first year. In the second year, a third host location increased membership to more than 60 Akron-area adults. Today, the Akron chapter has more than 140 members who range in age from their late-40s to their 80s.
Members pay a $21 monthly fee, which covers the cost of instruction and supplies. Jim Stahl, the local chapter sponsor and owner of the Central Instrument Company in Cuyahoga Falls, helped to spread the word across America.
“Chapters have duplicated across the country as adults searching for rewarding activities have followed a simple model presented by Roy Ernst [New Horizons founder and a professor at the Eastman School of Music],” Adkins says. “Find a teacher, a place to meet, purchase an instruction book and a good instrument, meet once or twice a week and begin making music and follow the lead of other successful chapters. It’s the ‘Build a field, and they will come’ philosophy.”
During the winter, the band rehearses at Bolich Middle School in Cuyahoga Falls and at Cuyahoga Falls High School in the summer.
Adkins says playing musical instruments is mentally stimulating, especially for adults.
“Tons of studies have been conducted over the years supporting the connectivity of the mental processes involved in the performance of music as calisthenics for the brain,” he says.
New Horizons provides eight to 10 performance opportunities for its members each year at venues like Blossom Music Center, Newport Levee in Cincinnati and Baldwin-Wallace College. Although the local group’s largest ensembles are its concert band and orchestra, it also has a jazz band.
The group is currently piloting an experimental program with Kent State University’s Music Education Department for selected students in preparation for student teaching.
Does this sound interesting to you? Then dust off your high-school clarinet case and check out New Horizon’s website at www.nhb-neo.org for membership information and details about how to join the group.
/ Writer Leighann McGivern is a senior at KSU working on her bachelor’s in journalism. She is currently the editor of the Daily Kent Stater.
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