It’s no secret that music is a pastime that can continue throughout your life. In fact, research shows that participation in music enriches the lives of older adults by enhancing their sense of well-being and improving their quality of life. The NAMM Foundation supports a number of initiatives to make sure adults are able to enjoy music making well into their golden years. Here are just a few music groups for older adults.
New Horizons Bands
New Horizons International Music Association provides exciting opportunities for adults interested in exploring music. It is a supportive and inclusive music community for members who have played casually all their lives, haven’t picked up an instrument in years, or are just learning to play for the first time. Scheduled practices provide seniors with a regular routine. Group concerts are an exciting culmination of their efforts that they all look forward to.
New Horizons Music programs include a wide range of musical groups—bands, orchestras, and choruses—scattered mainly across the US, but also in a few other countries, including Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. If a senior can’t find a suitable ensembles in their area, fear not! Members are encouraged to start up their own music groups to suit their needs.
Picking up an instrument or dusting some cobwebs off the vocal cords and practicing music in a group environment allows seniors to challenge themselves. It provides opportunities to grow intellectually, gain new friendships, and become part of a collaborative, inspiring team of like-minded individuals.
New Horizons founder Roy Ernst is convinced there’s a fountain of youth effect for New Horizons musicians. “They age well,” he contends. “They are more active, more intellectually stimulated. Maybe it’s because the kinds of people who seek out music are healthier to begin with. Either way, the music’s got something to do with it.”
North Coast Strings
The success of the New Horizons programs inspired Carolyn Grant to spearhead a new group for string players. Grant, who is executive director of the Museum of Making Music, wanted to fill a niche for recreational string players in
North Coast Strings, established in 2008, follows the same guiding principles as New Horizons music groups. The participants, ranging in age from 25 to 85, have varying skill sets. “Some people have never even read music before,” says Grant. They are learning everything here.” Practices are held at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, California.
With violins, violas, cellos and basses
in tow, members of North Coast Strings bring it back to the beginning, learning classical pieces in a patient and friendly environment.
“I knew I needed to do something to keep my mind sharp so I decided to learn to play cello,” says retired schoolteacher Judy Howarter. “This group has brought me great satisfaction. I look forward to every rehearsal because I know I will learn new things and share some laughs with a group of people who share my goal of just enjoying what we are doing and learning in a comfortable, stress-free environment.”
Funding for the orchestra is provided by student tuition and grants from the Saxton Family Foundation. This money allows North Coast Strings to purchase sheet music, have professional musicians and singers accompany it, and even to have original pieces written for the group.
New Horizons Band Camps
New Horizons offers many opportunities outside of regular music group practices to allow musicians to stay involved, strengthen their playing, and meet other musicians. Music camps are offered throughout the year, gathering members from different locations to share in the experience of creating music.
Last fall, the Great Lakes Tour took place in Grand Rapids, Saline, and Port Huron, Michigan. These were a series of short two-day camps for participants who may not be able to commit to a longer, more expensive camp. In 2014, 154 musicians attended the camp tour. Some even came to all three events. The feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive, with 97% stating interest in attending future music camps.
Longer four- and five-day camps are also offered through New Horizons. “The good thing about attending a music camp is you get more practices and more directors,” says Bonnie Brado, 70, a retired teacher who attended a camp in Bend, Oregon. “It’s great to be directed by people with different experiences. It makes you a better musician. Each director brings new methods to the table.”
“Band camp is also a good place to compare notes with musicians from other New Horizons groups, and bring ideas back home,” she continues.
In 2015, a whole array of camps will be held across the country, including in Colorado Springs, Colorado; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Holland, Michigan; and Chautauqua, New York. The camp at Chautauqua is the longest running and largest of the camps. The five-day camp, operating October 4-8, will offer advanced, intermediate, jazz, and Dixie band; orchestra; and chorus, among other classes and ensembles.
If you are looking for even more adventure, a camp in Ireland is slated to take place in 2016.