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Music Opens a New Horizon

A new music group has formed in Houston, but you’re not going to hear them at the Verizon Center or Jones Hall. The Energy City New Horizons Music Group is part of a national movement that is bringing players back to their musical roots. From the KUHF NewsLab, Melissa Galvez has the story.



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“1, 2, ready, breath!”

3 flutes, 3 clarinets, and 2 brass players puff and blow with all the spirit of a real  marching band.  On Tuesday mornings, the choir room at the Memorial Drive United Methodist Church fills with their sound.  But this is not a usual community band.  The last time trumpeter Jim McKinley picked up his instrument, he was in a school marching band-in 1941.

“I’m the brass section so far.”

McKinley is one of about 30 people who have signed up for the newly-formed New Horizons Music group, which meets in the church but is an independent non profit.  He played in his high school band in San Angelo, but had to give it up as work and life intervened.  Now, at 85, he’s picking it back up for fun — with the same trumpet he used 68 years ago.

“And my folks bought it second hand, so I don’t know how old it is. But it still works fine.”

“So let’s take a look at the B flat…”

Terry Tullos is the director of Energy City New Horizons Music.  He says that the group is part of a national movement, founded 15 years ago, to provide opportunities for senior citizens to play in small bands and orchestras.  There are now over 100 groups nationwide.  Tullos says the emphasis is on fun, not perfection.

“The New Horizons band is different because, there is not the competition thing.  Your best is good enough. And that’s the difference. It’s inviting for someone who just wants to play for fun.”

Tullos says that senior citizens are different than other players because they tend to have more time to practice, and that they take the group seriously, but with a sense of perspective.  In this group, any adult can join, but Tullos says the experience can be particularly rewarding for senior citizens.

“Playing music really works your mind. You’re having to think tempo; you’re having to think note value; you have to use your hands, and there are so many things to do playing music that it really keeps your mind and your body working.”

“I lost my husband a year ago, or  last year, so I needed to fill some time…I enjoy playing with other people, it’s just not fun to sit in your bedroom and play scales by yourself.”

Jane Chambers is picking the flute back up, 48 years after she played it at Lamar High School.  She was a little worried about remembering how to do things like trills, but she says it comes back to her.  Still, there are unique problems, and opportunities, in playing at that age.

“Getting your breathing back, because I can’t hold my breath like I could when I was 20. Maybe it will come back.  Because the lady who plays in the church orchestra is 80 years old, so if she can do it at 80,  I can do it at nearly 67.”

From the KUHF News Lab, I’m Melissa Galvez.