CORVALLIS — “This band, the thing that is so remarkable is the enthusiasm and dedication of the band members,” Corvallis New Horizons Band conductor Ephraim Hackett said. “They are very much there because they want to be.”
On a recent Thursday evening, about 35 concert band members gathered for a weekly rehearsal with Hackett in the band room of Cheldelin Middle School, while a flute sectional was held just down the hall by the group’s co-founder Ken Oefelein.
Nationwide, the New Horizons music program is a place for adults to enjoy and create music, bringing together beginners (even those that cannot read music) with others who might have played an instrument in school, but haven’t touched it in years. It’s also a place where a proficient player can learn another instrument.
There are more than 150 New Horizons groups in the U.S. and Canada.
Hackett became director of the Corvallis New Horizons Band when it formed in January 2004. Before that, he was director of West Albany High School’s band program from 1979 to 1994. As a trumpet player he was also a longtime member of the Willamette Valley Brass Quintet and performed with many other groups around Oregon.
The Corvallis New Horizons Band is sponsored by Gracewinds Music. Store owners Ken and Sharon Oefelein both participate in the band, and hosted rehearsals in their downtown Corvallis shop before it outgrew the space last year.
The group gives regular free community concerts and recently played at a festival for adult bands in Eugene. Next up is a program in mid-March at Quail Run Assisted Living Center at the Mennonite Village in Albany.
While some New Horizons groups around the country limit their membership to players age 55 and over, the Corvallis group is open to “anyone who considers themselves an adult.”
“Our main thrust is that we will take everyone,” said flute player Edith Madden.
According to Hackett, a few people in the group have moved on to more advanced community bands, but surprisingly many have stayed on even after their skills improved or have simply joined other groups in addition to New Horizons.
Band members travel from as far away as Alsea, Brownsville, Salem and Albany to be in the group, where the atmosphere at rehearsals is very informal and there are no auditions.
“People just come when they can,” Hackett said.
The group recently received a $900 grant from the Benton County Cultural Coalition, sponsored by The Arts Center of Corvallis, that will be used to start a new beginners’ section and help with tuition scholarships.
The first session of the new beginners’ section will start at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, at the band room of Cheldelin Middle School. For information, contact New Horizons Band president Ofer Heyman at 541-752-7282 or 541-231-0052 or email@example.com.