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New Horizons Band holds open house

Group holds event to recruit new members

Group holds event to recruit new members

October 19, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN ? What do you do when you throw a party and nobody comes?

You strike up the band.

The New Horizons Band ? a musical group for people older than 50 ? held an open house Friday at the Hagerstown YMCA to recruit new members.

The event did not attract any new musicians, but that did not discourage the roughly 20 current band members who attended the event.

"This group has a wonderful spirit about it, and we are just starting to surge again," said Evelyn Madden, who has played alto saxophone with New Horizons since it began in 1997.

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The band is part of a national organization of New Horizon bands, of which there are more than 75 in the United States and Canada.

Hagerstown's group started as a program through what was then Hagerstown Junior College. A twice-weekly class offered through the school's lifelong learning program, it taught seniors how to play an instrument and gave them a chance to perform as a group.

The band booked four or five gigs every month in its first few years, playing shows at nursing homes, retiree gatherings and other events, Madden said.

But last December, the group ended its affiliation with the college after band members had a falling out with the conductor. Membership dwindled and gigs became harder to come by.

"This band was hurting when I started," said Dave McCandless, who took over as the group's conductor in August.

McCandless, the band director at Greencastle-Antrim High School from 1964 to 1982, said the band has made strides since he started. He said he loves working with the group, which includes former professional musicians and beginners alike.

"The enthusiasm is great. People want to be here," McCandless said.

Since McCandless started, New Horizons has played a handful of shows at local retirement homes and found a permanent rehearsal space at the YMCA, where they gather every Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. for practice.

Eve McGrory of Hagerstown, one of the group's original members, said McCandless has been crucial to the band's resurgence.

"He is just what we needed. A retired high school band director is perfect for this kind of group," McGrory said.

The band is open to musicians of all experience levels. Many of the members had not played an instrument before they joined New Horizons.

Madden said that is part of what makes the band so much fun.

"When I hit a wrong note, I'm not criticized. I get encouragement."

McGrory agreed.

"None of us are ever going to be virtuosos. We're here to exercise our brains and make some friends."

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