Celebrating two decades of new Horizons

Special to Western News

Barbara Belbeck was looking to take a singing course when she came across an ad in Western’s Continuing Education brochure announcing the start of the New Horizons Band.

When she called to inquire in January 1999, she was told all the spots were full but to come the first day in case someone didn’t show. Belbeck was in line to register when the person ahead of her was handed the final instrument available.

Fortunately, he refused because he already had one that belonged to his granddaughter.

“They handed me the remaining clarinet,” she recalled with a smile. “The New Horizons Band experience has been a life highlight in the past 20 years.”

Belbeck is one of nine original members who are still playing in the band as it gets ready to celebrate its 20th anniversary with a concert on Dec. 1 at Western’s Paul Davenport Theatre. Roy Ernst, New Horizons founder, will be on hand to conduct Beyond The Horizon, a piece by London composer Jeff Smallman commissioned for this anniversary year.

Special to Western NewsPictured are eight of the nine original members of the New Horizons Band still playing in the ensemble: from left, Annick Deakin, Barbara Belbeck and Trudy Rose; standing, from left Merrill Edmonds, Dale Inder, Stan Deakin, Gerry Fenwick and Raymond Chan (missing from photo is original member Barb Edmonds). New Horizons celebrates its 20th anniversary with a concert on Dec. 1 at Western’s Paul Davenport Theatre.

“The program has allowed us to develop skills and craft while learning how to make music meaningfully in small and large groups,” said Betty Anne Younker, Dean of the Don Wright Faculty of Music. “The added bonus, which was not envisioned in 1999, was the contributions that have evolved from the NHB program. The band members’ contributions, which continue to enrich lives within the various communities in the greater London area, are remarkable.”

The New Horizons Band is open to adult musicians of any skill level, including beginners. The December concert will have performances from the two beginner bands right through to the two advanced bands. From that day in early 1999, the London program, the first of its kind in Canada, has evolved into one of the largest in North America, with more than 240 active members today.

The London band program allows adults to learn music and play in a concert band with other like-minded people. The New Horizons concept was the result of a groundbreaking course in the early 1990s by Ernst, a professor at the University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music, who wanted to research the cognitive impact on older adults learning to play an instrument. The program has since spread across North America and to other countries overseas, and Ernst received an honorary degree from Western in 2009.

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New Horizons Band – 20th Anniversary Concert

Dr. Roy Ernst will be guest conducting the Advanced II Band as they perform the world premiere of Beyond The Horizon, a celebratory commission by composer Jeff Smallman.

1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1
Paul Davenport Theatre, Talbot College, Western
Free admission.