At HJC, the beat goes on

March 07, 1997


Staff Writer

Washington County's senior citizens will soon have a chance to march to the beat of a different drummer.

Her name is Katherine M. "Kate" Levy, the first coordinator of music programs for the Hagerstown Junior College Office of Continuing Education.

There is already a music program for pre-schoolers in place. This fall, Levy plans to span the generations and offer area seniors 50 and older a band course - open to beginners as well as experienced musicians.

For Levy, the idea of teaching music is a familiar refrain.

Levy's father was a band teacher - her band teacher. At age 36 she is working on her doctorate in music education, and already has taught band to students of all ages.


At one point in her career, Levy was teaching preschoolers two days a week, and seniors two days a week.

"About the only similarity was the sense of wonder at their accomplishment," Levy said. "With the seniors there was this outpouring of joy at being able to make good music. That same joy was there in the children. There's no expiration date on musical potential."

Band sessions will begin with small group lessons, and those groups will eventually merge into a band, she said.

The group will be called the New Horizons Band, after similar groups in other parts of the country.

She heard about the first New Horizons senior band program in New York while she was at the University of Iowa. She asked to be an instructor for a similar program in Iowa City, where about 30 students age 55 through 75 enrolled.

Fifty percent had played an instrument in high school, and the other half either were beginners or wanted to learn another instrument, Levy said.

"They played well,'' she said. "They were very motivated and very interested."

The band started getting requests to perform. "The county fair was our first gig," Levy said. "By the time I left two years later, we were voting on which offers to take."

"We played a lot of traditional marches and overtures, some Broadway tunes and jazz," Levy said. "Patriotic music was very popular."

Some polka enthusiasts got together and formed a group called The Polka Dots, she added.

When she landed the job at HJC, Levy bounced the idea of a senior band off of Director of Continuing Education Ann Shipway. The plan was music to Shipway's ears.

Shipway, who has studied the piano, said HJC has dabbled in continuing education music programs before but has never before had a coordinator and a full curriculum that runs the gamut from pre-schoolers to seniors.

Levy said she's working on details of the senior band program, but tentatively plans to hold it two hours a day, twice a week, each semester.

Seniors would pay a registration fee and need to buy, rent or borrow a folding music stand and an instrument.

HJC will accept donations of band instruments for the program from businesses or individuals.

To donate an instrument or to get more information about the senior band program, call HJC's Valley Mall office at 582-4000.

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