The New Horizon Band has been busy since it moved from Eckerd College to Gulfport and officially changed its name to the New Horizon Band of Gulfport.
“We are truly delighted to have such a wonderful musical group in Gulfport!” city Technical Events Specialist Gail Biron said Tuesday, December 6.
Since its start about 10 years ago, the band had been affiliated with Eckerd College. Last year, however, it was told it needed to go elsewhere and started looking for a new home, said tuba player and board of directors member Michael Wilson of St. Petersburg.
The band approached the city of Gulfport, where it was already known from performances at events like the Art Walk. Biron consulted Rachel Cataldo, coordinator of the Gulfport Multipurpose Senior Center, and the rest is history. The band now practices at the Senior Center.
“We are just as pleased as we can be to have found an organization like the city of Gulfport that is as supportive as they are,” Wilson said.
This summer the band legally changed its name to reflect its base in Gulfport and became a not-for-profit corporation.
The band provides “musical education, training and performance opportunities in a concert band format for adults of any age and at any stage of musical experience and competence,” its website states. “We are always looking for new talent.”
Membership is not limited to Gulfport residents or to any age group, however. There are currently about 35 members ranging age from their 40s to late 90s.
One of those members is Pippa Francq of St. Petersburg. Francq played the piano during her youth but opted to play the clarinet in the band.
“The best thing about our band is that even if you’ve never played an instrument, you can get instruction free,” said Francq, who is also the membership coordinator. An added benefit, she said, is that she has also gained many new friends.
The band is led by Bob Schaer, a former high school band director. He replaced Eckerd music professor David Irwin, who had led the band since its inception but passed away this summer.
“It was a huge, huge loss for the band,” Francq said.
The concept behind the original band came from Roy Ernest of Rochester, N.Y. He promoted bands for former musicians over the age of 50 who wanted to play again, or people who wanted to learn a new instrument. Today the New Horizons International Music Association comprises dozens of bands throughout the United States and in some countries abroad. (See newhorizonsmusic.org for more.)
Since becoming Gulfport’s own, the band has performed at several local events, including Gulfport Night Out, Flag Day and Heroes Weekend, Biron said. It is scheduled to play at the Holiday Hoopla this Saturday at 11 a.m. and has a concert at the Catherine Hickman Theater on December 13 at 7 p.m.
“They are truly and awesome and talented group of people,” Biron said.