When Portsmouth Music and Arts Center (PMAC) was founded in 2003, we embarked on a mission to build community through the arts. Our very first initiative was the New Horizons Band, an ensemble for adult beginners, as well as people who played instruments in their youth and want to reconnect with music. Over the years the New Horizons program grew and diversified; today, it includes not just a beginner band but also a more intermediate band and a strings orchestra. As we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the New Horizons Band program, we also celebrate that the program has built a close-knit and supportive social community, which is often just as important as the music itself.

Addressing the Loneliness Epidemic

In recent years, our society has grappled with a pervasive problem: loneliness. Surprisingly, studies have revealed that loneliness can be as detrimental to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. This epidemic is particularly concerning for older adults, a demographic that’s growing rapidly in New Hampshire. In Rockingham County alone, nearly 20% of residents are aged 65 or above, making social isolation among seniors a pressing regional issue.

At PMAC, we are committed to helping older adults lead healthy, vibrant, and creative lives. Recognizing the profound benefits of group musical activities in combating loneliness, we decided to take further action in 2023.

Expanding Access to Creative Aging Program

Thanks to a generous grant from the Foundation for Seacoast Health, we’ve been able to reimagine our tuition model to better serve older adults. Through our Creative Aging Program, now adults aged 65+ can enjoy a significant reduction in tuition fees. For those over 65, tuition is reduced by 50%, and for those over 70, it’s reduced by 75%. Significantly, when a participant reaches the age of 75, their music ensemble becomes tuition-free for life.

This tiered approach means that even if someone’s income becomes fixed after retirement, they’ll never have to make the difficult decision of whether they can afford to continue their musical journey. In the very first semester of implementing this new model, we provided reduced or free tuition for 71 older adults enrolled in our music ensembles!

Celebrating Unity of Sound

As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the New Horizons Band program, we’re excited to celebrate the achievements of PMAC’s adult ensembles. On November 4th, we invite you to join us at the Unity of Sound Festival in Portsmouth, NH. This event promises to be a beautiful fusion of music and community spirit, where 16 ensembles will perform while raising funds to support our Creative Aging tuition model.

More to Come with the New Horizons Band Program

Looking ahead, we’re eager to see what the next 20 years hold for the New Horizons program and all our adult ensembles. So whether you’re a seasoned musician or someone who’s never touched an instrument before, know that PMAC is here to welcome you with open arms, helping you discover the magic of music and the warmth of a community that’s been thriving for two decades and counting.