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Dr. Roy Ernst, Founder New Horizons Band, International

Organizational Internet Website

New Horizons Music programs provide entry points to music making for adults, including those with no musical experience at all and those who were active in school music programs but have been inactive for a long time. Many adults would like an opportunity to learn music in a group setting similar to that offered in schools, but the last entry point in most cases was elementary school. We know that for most of the last century, about 15-20 percent of high school students nationally participated in music. From that, we can estimate that at least 80 percent of the adult population needs beginning instruction in order to participate in making music. New Horizons Music programs serve that need.

The first New Horizons program at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York was designed to serve the senior population. A minimum age of 50 was arbitrarily set as a guideline, since that is the age of eligibility for joining the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), one of the first official markers of senior adulthood. Many New Horizons programs started since then are designed specifically for senior adults and have minimum age requirements, 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.” The targeted age range and requirements, if any, are local decisions. 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. Many adults have been made to feel unmusical, often by parents or music teachers. It is common at New Horizons informational meetings to hear people say things like “My parents said ‘No one in this family has musical talent, so you’re not going to start music classes.’” Or, “My music teacher said ‘Move your lips, but don’t make any sound.’” Those scars last a lifetime, and the people who carry such memories will need assurance. The first New Horizons program in 1991 was a band, but the intent was to also start other kinds of New Horizons programs. New Horizons orchestras started a few years later. The concept and philosophy of New Horizons Music can be applied to many other types of music making and music classes.

The New Horizons Program Founder, Dr. Roy Ernst

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 set 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 “Music and Your Health”

Last Edit 9-2017

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