It was a typical band concert in many respects. Parents and grandparents toting cameras, black metal music stands, the cacophonous sounds of instruments warming up with brass booming and the occasional squeak of a reed instrument. The band director stood facing the half-circle of wind and percussion instruments while the audience watched expectantly from metal folding chairs painted that ubiquitous folding chair beige.
But at this concert, there was a curious reversal. The younger generations filled the audience, and it was the older crowd that picked up instruments to play. We were there to watch my dad at the New Horizons band concert.
When my dad told me he was joining a band, my eyebrows just about met my hairline. Although he played guitar some when I was younger, the instrument I’ve most seen him play is a trombone. Sure enough, he’s once again picked up his high school brass — the same trombone he played more than 50 years ago. In fact, he was invited by a high school buddy — who also plays trombone.
The New Horizons band is a national organization — and it’s pretty darn cool, if you ask me. The qualifications to get in are to want to play an instrument, show up to practice and to bring your instrument. No musical background required. Oh, and the minimum age is 50, unless you’re one of the UMKC Conservatory students who participate to learn various instruments in preparation for their teaching careers.
You know how band concerts sound? Mostly pretty good, a few notes off, a few played out of time, but the music comes together. And they’re often, well, a little stiff and boring. Not something a kid would sit through very happily.
Yet this band knows how to do it right. Their first concert that I attended, a couple months ago, was made up of music chosen just to delight the kids. With themes from Harry Potter, a Pixar medley and other rollicking tunes, the kids were thrilled to watch Grandpa and his friends play. And you know how grandparents let their grandkids get away with anything? The same holds true when the kids are in the audience. The conductor’s son ran up to steal a hug from daddy between performances. A toddler in his mom’s arms, at the end of the audience’s applause, would shout out, “Thank you, thank you very much!” And at the end, they served cookies. Those grandparents really know how to throw a concert.
When Dad invited us to the holiday concert, he promised a sing-along. I think he meant it as a selling point, although I didn’t take it as one. He didn’t need to sell it, though. I mean, what good daughter would miss her dad’s band concert?
First, the trombone choir played. Dad told me they’d worked to be in perfect pitch — and their hard work was evident. It sounded beautiful. Then a Dixieland group, another smaller group within the band, played several songs. It was loud, as we were in the second row facing the trumpets, but our kids listened and tapped their toes.
The whole group then banded together. (Sorry, I couldn’t help the pun) to play familiar holiday tunes. When they broke out in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, my kids belted out the familiar words. And I figured, what the heck? I sang out right alongside them, unable to tell if I was on tune at all, sitting there face-to-face with the band. They were loud. I tried to respond in kind.
There’s much to be learned from the band. The lifelong value of participating in music (the newhorizonsmusic.org website lists many health and emotional benefits from music-making). The joy of doing something just for fun. That it’s OK to perform — even when you’re not perfect. Oh, and that band concerts can be loads of fun. Just make sure you have plenty of cookies.
Overland Park mom and 913 freelancer Emily Parnell blogs at mom2momkc.com.