CSRA New Horizons Band open to former musicians and those set to learn

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 Beth Harmon stopped playing trumpet when she was 18 and didn’t pick up the instrument again until she was 68.

No experience is necessary to participate in the CSRA New Horizons Band.  JO WHITSON/SPECIAL
JO WHITSON/SPECIAL
No experience is necessary to participate in the CSRA New Horizons Band.

“I think it’s important for people to realize that you’re never too old to learn something new or take up where you left off many years ago,” she said.

Harmon plays trumpet in the CSRA New Horizons Band, a group for adults ages 50 and older who want to learn to play an instrument or renew a skill they once had.

The band is part of an international organization with more than 200 groups in the U.S. and Canada. There is an informal age restriction, but “if you call yourself an adult you can come,” said Jo Whitson, the program coordinator. No experience is necessary to participate.

“Roughly 40 percent of the members don’t have any musical experience,” she said. “They just wanted to play an instrument.”

The group rehearses in the band room at the University of South Carolina Aiken once a week, under the direction of Lauren Meccia, the director of bands at the university. Meccia and Whitson founded the program in August 2010.

A friend of Whitson invited her to Columbia to practice with the New Horizons Band there. Though she played percussion in high school and college, Whitson decided to take a stab at trombone.

She enjoyed the experience so much that she began the local group.

“Music has been a part of a lot of people’s lives,” Whitson said. “Sometimes you just get to tapping your foot and singing along, and you think ‘I just wish I could do that.’

‘‘It’s a way to bring the musical experience into your own life.”

Harmon, who has been involved since the band’s inception, enjoys the opportunity to meet new people and the camaraderie that develops.

“It’s great to be a member because everybody has the same goals,” she said. “They just want to have fun and enjoy the music.”

For now, the group includes marching band instruments – woodwinds, brass and percussion – but Whitson hopes to eventually expand it to include string instruments.

Several offshoot groups have formed from the CSRA New Horizons band. On the Fourth of July, Whitson and a few others, decked out in their most patriotic outfits, formed The Sassy Brass to perform at nursing homes and other venues.

Participation costs $150 a semester, which includes 10 private lessons.

The band performs at civic and community events, such as the Aiken’s Makin festival Sept. 8.

A meeting for new members will be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, and Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. The group meets Tuesdays from 5-7 p.m. (beginner band at 5 p.m.; intermediate at 6 p.m.).

For more information about the program, visit www.csranewhorizonsband.com or e-mail Whitson at csranhb@bellsouth.net.

WANT TO PLAY?

WHAT: CSRA New Horizons Band
WHEN: Tuesdays from 5-7 p.m. (beginner band at 5, intermediate at 6); a meeting for new band members will be at 5 p.m. Jan. 22
WHERE: USC Aiken Etherredge Center, Room 125
COST: $150 per semester
MORE: www.csranewhorizonsband.com or e-mail csranhb@bellsouth.net


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