By Russ Grazier

PMAC (Portsmouth Music and Arts Center) has been awarded a grant from the Foundation for Seacoast Health to expand access to PMAC’s music ensemble programs for older adults in our community. The goal of the project is to combat the all-too-common effects of isolation and loneliness that impact many older adults. The grant will allow adults age 65 and older to participate in PMAC’s weekly music ensembles for free or at a reduced rate.

PMAC launched its first adult music ensemble in March of 2003 when the New Horizons Band was launched out of the Portsmouth High School band room on Tuesday evenings. In the time since, PMAC has grown to offer more than a dozen adult music ensembles every week. To celebrate twenty years of community music programs for adults, this grant will change the way ensemble programs are offered to older participants, greatly improving access for adults ages 65 and above.

Participants ages 65-69 will automatically receive a 50% discount on tuition. At age 70, it becomes a 75% discount, and participants age 75 and older may now enroll in a PMAC adult music ensemble for free. This offer is available for all of PMAC’s adult ensembles, beginning in the Spring 2023 session, and the participant must verify their age prior to the start of the session to qualify. There are limited spaces in each ensemble, and spaces are filled on a first come, first served basis. If you have never played a musical instrument, or want to pick up the instrument you played in your youth, the New Horizons Beginner Band will get you started on any band instrument. For more information, contact the PMAC office at 603-431-4278, or email info@pmaconline.org

More older adults are finding themselves socially isolated, especially in New Hampshire and Maine where the aging population is growing at an unprecedented rate. Research shows that participation in amateur music ensembles can lead to close-knit communities, providing an antidote to loneliness and relief from the negative health outcomes often associated with social isolation (negative outcomes include depression, anxiety, mood disorders, cognitive decline, and premature death). When older adults find their creative community in a participatory music ensemble, especially later in life, data shows that they can live longer, happier, and healthier lives. 

PMAC Flute Choir

PMAC currently offers fourteen weekly music ensembles for adults, many of which are geared toward older adults who played music in their youth and want to return to playing their instrument after many years of not playing (often 30, 40, or 50 years away from their instrument). These programs are offered from September through May, and with a few continuing through the summer months. This program launched in 2003 with a New Horizons Band that originally had twelve participants, and today has more than thirty members. Our New Horizons Band meets twice a week and is specifically geared toward older adults and incorporates social time, allowing participants to bond with one another. 

While most community band programs are designed for people who have played extensively, PMAC music ensembles for older adults are educational in nature, and are designed to get older adults playing together immediately. There is no stress about ability level – the ensembles are welcoming to all and some of the ensembles are even designed to teach the participants how to play their instruments. Our goal is to keep people engaged in ensemble-based music-making as long as possible. We currently have students in their sixties, seventies, and eighties, and hope to welcome many more with this new tuition model. We offer thanks to the Foundation for Seacoast Health for believing in PMAC and these important programs, and for providing grant funding that will help keep older adults engaged for as long as possible, in many cases well into their eighties or nineties, without causing any financial stress.

Registration for Spring Semester begins January 4. Call 603-431-4278 or email info@pmaconline.org for more information.


In May of 2022, PMAC’s CEO, Russ Grazier, gave a TEDxPortsmouth talk about the importance of participating in creative communities as we grow older:

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