- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Alma Tonsager didn’t realize how much she had missed playing trumpet until the Sioux Falls woman walked into a local New Horizons Band rehearsal. She still was so unsure about resuming music that she left her horn in her car.

“Where’s your horn?” demanded Bob Griffith, another trumpet player. “In the car,” she replied. “Go get it,” Griffith instructed her.

Tonsager came up with another excuse. “I don’t have any valve oil,” she said. Griffith brushed that off, informing her that he had plenty and would be glad to share.

That’s how Tonsager started in the New Horizons Band, which was created to bring people age 50 and older back to music after what often is several decades away or to help teach musical instruments to people who never picked one up before.

Roy Ernst, who founded the New Horizons Band program in the 1980s, is in Sioux Falls this week, one of about 60 musicians who will perform in concert Saturday after a weeklong band camp on the Augustana College campus. It’s the first New Horizons Band camp offered in Sioux Falls.

It drew 67-year-old Buddy Givens, who lives in Aubrey, Texas, near Dallas, to the city. This is his second stay at band camp, and Givens said he’s here for the experience.

“We try to give people a very intense experience, and they play music they’ve never seen with people they don’t know,” Givens told the Argus Leader (http://argusne.ws/1Jl3dTm ). “We’re here to introduce or reintroduce people to music.”

Givens began playing bassoon in 1963 and continued “off and on” until about 1986. Then, traveling for his job and his children’s activities, took up his free time. In 2010 he retired, however, and in 2011 he joined a New Horizons Band. Now he plays in two.

“We’re all about giving the opportunity of music to be made,” Givens said.

Musicians at the local band camp will learn 20 pieces in five days, Ernst said, but what they experience extends far beyond that. Music, he said, connects people to life.

“You’re an important part of the group and always actively involved in a musical group,” he said. “You’re living in the present in the sense of working on things right now. You’re working on the future in terms of wanting to play better and preparing for concerts or going to music camps.”

Ernst said he started New Horizons because he saw too many people living in the past, talking about what they used to do. Ask what they were doing in the present, and the answer would be “Not so much.”

Playing in a band changes that, he said.

“These connections in life are important to everyone, especially to retired people,” Ernst said. “Some connections are diminishing. They’re losing friends and some kids have moved away. Relationships we really counted on aren’t there. The satisfaction we got from careers isn’t there anymore. Music is such a healthy and fulfilling activity, especially in the senior adult years.”

Jim Cubberly was 52 when he started playing trumpet. He always had wanted to play an instrument but never accomplished it in his youth. Then, he saw a newspaper article announcing a New Horizons band was forming in his hometown of Tecumseh, Michigan.

“I thought, look at this, they’re going to teach me how to play,” said Cubberly, now 69. “So they did, and I’ve been playing ever since.”

Paul Schilf, a band conductor at Augustana and a camp director, uses his music education students to assist the local New Horizons Band, which is based on the college campus.

“We use it as a teaching opportunity and a unique teaching opportunity,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity for our kids to help old kids because I believe the older kids have a great time and are just like kids at heart.”

The weeklong camp also offers a day trip to the National Music Museum in Vermillion. Participants will play in smaller ensembles, too, or take a class on instrument repair, world drumming and movie music.

Tonsager helped bring the camp in Sioux Falls as a way to share the city, the state and the local band. She played trumpet from grade school through early college years, and while church choir was a part of her adult life, something was missing.

She learned what that was when she walked into her first New Horizons rehearsal.

“I knew I was missing something, but I didn’t know what it was,” Tonsager said.

___

Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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