Music Lessons in Centerbrook, CT
“What I Did on My Summer Vacation”
by Rita Christopher
I like to say amusing things, but the funniest thing I said this summer was totally serious, completely unexaggerated and guaranteed to get, if not an outright laugh, at least a bemused guffaw.
What could be so funny? It was just a simple declarative sentence: I am going to band camp. I never intended it a joke. It was true.
I was clueless, something my adult children, when they were teens often pointed out, that the phrase band camp evoked memories of a raucous 2005 movie, named of course, Band Camp. It was R rated and described on Rotten Tomatoes, a movie reviewing site, as “crass and unnecessary … with lots of cursing, sex.”
Even without references to the movie, band camp sounded like something high school music groups do before the fall so they will have the right formations for marching displays on the football field. (I once did that but all I want to say is that it was some years ago.)
So this was what somebody, who despite her best efforts, was visibly a senior citizen, was going to do for a week?
I suppose I should have said New England Adult Music Camp but it was such a mouthful and after a while, I loved to see the reactions when I said band camp.
The truth, however, is that band camp and the band I play in throughout the year are a vital part of who I am and what I do. I should explain a few basic facts here. I am not a talented musician; I am not even a very good musician, but I am an enthusiastic baritone horn player in the New Horizons Band at the Community Music School (CMS) in Centerbrook.
New Horizons in a national organization founded to encourage participation in music by older (oops, it slipped out again) people, who played instruments at an earlier point in their lives, say trumpet in the junior high school band, but now many years later would like to revive that musical experience. It is also an opportunity for adults who have never studied an instrument to take one up. Our band at CMS has both kinds of musicians.
And though we all live in this area, we came from many different backgrounds; most, though not all, are retired. Among the 20 musicians are a carpenter, a university professor, a dental hygienist, an engineer, a researcher with a doctorate in biochemistry, a physician, a nurse. Our conductor, Ivoryton resident Patricia Hurley, is a retired music teacher. She attended camp as an instructor along with several current and former members of our band. Another CMS teacher, Tom Briggs, also from Ivoryton, was the camp’s percussion instructor, and Rick Wyman, the executive director of CMS, was the guest conductor.
Our band, ultimately, is about far more than the music we play. New Horizons is about aging and how you live your life.
The challenge we face, not simply as older musicians, but as older adults navigating life, is how to turn the years that are sometimes, and sometimes laughably, referred to as the golden years into a time of activity, productivity and meaning.
Band is one of the ways I do it. Playing music as an adult doesn’t have to be for people who have chosen careers as musicians. Music can be a lifetime participatory sport for anyone who enjoys doing it. It can be your golf, a sport people play for a lifetime of enjoyment, not for the goal of being Tiger Woods.
We practice twice a week as a group; we practice individually at home. We play concerts, often for senior groups who not only appreciate our music but thankfully, our age. We played a concert for an elementary school last spring, one at which one of our members is regular substitute. She introduced us to the group as “grandparent-type people.” Our young audience was enthusiastic.
We have uniforms. After all, we are a band. The uniforms are particularly special for me. My late husband, a good saxophone player, was a member of the band. In fact, three weeks before he died, he played a concert with us. He asked that any contributions in his memory be made to the New Horizons Band at CMS. We used the money to buy uniform shirts for all of us, so every time I put on that blue shirt, I think of him and of how much he loved playing in the band.
Am I ever going to be a good musician? I hope so, but whatever happens, I can tell you now where I will be the last week of August next summer: band camp.
(article courtesy of Shore Publishing)

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