New Horizons Band celebrates 20th year with Dec. 12 concert
By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
Everyone has heard of the wonderful Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra, and many people regularly attend performances of bands comprised of New Mexico State University students and students at local middle and high schools, but, did you know there is another fully orchestrated band here in Las Cruces that brings together talented musicians from age 14 to age 86 – and is always on the lookout for new members?
The New Horizons Band includes two twins who are students at Arrowhead Park Early College High School, a retired airline pilot and fighter pilot, homemakers, teachers, clergy, a dentist, a doctor, two soldiers, an engineer, a graphic designer, a dance instructor and many more. The band’s average age is 70 to 75, and most are retired, but they all love making music together.
The band also includes four members of the Cleveland family – father and husband, Daryl, on the alto saxophone; mother and wife, Lori, on the bassoon; daughter Annika, 17, on the French horn; and son, Zach, 14, on the trumpet.
Zach is the band’s youngest member; the oldest is flutist Cathryn Kittleson, who is 90.
Oh, and let’s not forget the music professionals who lead the band. John Schutz, who recently retired for the second time after more than 40 years as a middle- and highschool band director and as coordinator for visual and performing arts for Las Cruces Public Schools, is the director of New Horizons Band (NHB). Judy Bethmann, who also had a long career with LCPS, is the associate director.
NHB recently celebrated its 20th year of performing in Las Cruces, making it one of the oldest New Horizons bands in the country. It was formed in 1995 by then NMSU Music Department Director Dr. William Clark. Clark served as director for more than a dozen years, before turning over the reins – and the baton – to Schutz about seven years ago.
NHB is a nonprofit and continues its affiliation with NMSU. Mike White, of White’s Music Box of Las Cruces, is also a band sponsor. All band rehearsals are on the NMSU campus, and it performs three or more times a year at NMSU’s Atkinson Recital Hall, which is also called the Music Building.
The first New Horizons band was formed by Dr. Roy Ernst, who taught for 25 years at Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY. He started an NHB there in 1991, and the model has since expanded to more than 130 bands across the country, including three in Las Cruces, the NHB, the New Horizons Swing Band and the New Horizons Symphony; and one other in New Mexico, the NHB of Rio Rancho. There are also NHBs in England, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy and Australia.
Ernst’s philosophy for New Horizons is that “the style of instruction must be completely supportive and free of competition and intimidation. My motto is, ‘Your best is good enough,’” he said.
“Roy Ernst was the driving force behind the whole concept, and the National Association of Music Merchandisers put a lot of seed money into the (NHB) program,” Clark said. “Roy tried to establish at least one program in every state. I don’t know if he succeeded, but I know he got close. We took a few years to establish a mission and just what we were endeavoring to accomplish and it has evolved quite well in my view. John Schutz is as good as they get as a teacher/musician/educator.”
The Las Cruces NHB rehearses from 6:30 to 8 p.m. every Tuesday evening, August through May. And, after the long summer break, “they’re anxious to come back,” Schutz said. “There’s a real social aspect to the band,” Schutz said, but, “the members of the band are very serious about it. We work hard. I demand a lot of them.”
“The attendance is really very good” at rehearsals, he said. And Schutz said its obvious band members are practicing on their own between rehearsals and before performances. “I expect them to come back prepared. I think there’s some pretty good practice going on,” he said.
NHB usually performs concerts in May, June and December; and often works with school groups, churches, senior centers, veterans groups and other organizations.
There is never any charge to attend an NHB performance.
Band membership usually stays around 50 to 55, Schutz said. It goes up a little each winter when “snow birds” return to the area, he said.
The Las Cruces NHB is fully orchestrated, Schutz said, but does need at least one oboe player. And musicians who play other instruments are also welcome to join. You don’t have to have any musical experience, and, thanks to support from the Conrad Instrument Endowment Fund, the band can even help you get an instrument if you don’t have one.
“If people want to come and play, we have room for them,” Schutz said. One of Schutz’s instructions to his band is to “play what you can play. The sign of a good musician,” he said, “is to know when not to play.”
The band plays a wide range of music, usually in the middle range in terms of difficulty, Schutz said. A typical NHB concert will include one to two marches, and most pieces performed will be arrangements rather than original scores, because they are usually in a more accessible key and range, he said.
Dues are $45 a year for adult members. Students, including NMSU students, pay no dues.
Schutz, who had been associate band director until Clark retired, said he was happy to take over direction of the band, even though it’s volunteer duty. “It’s a community service,” he said, “and I’m doing something I love to do. Musicians and music teachers don’t really retire,” he said. Bethmann has been associate NHB director since 2002. She spent 12 years with LCPS, first as general music teacher at Doña Ana Elementary School and then at White Sands School, where she taught music to students in grades one through six plus beginning and advanced band. “Playing and performing music not only keeps the brain active, but fills our soul and keeps us young,” Bethmann said.
“I have been in NHB for 13 years and a part of that time I have been the treasurer for the organization,” Heather Pfeiffer said. “I joined after 25 years of no playing. It took time to get my embouchure back and to be able to play proficiently again. Dr. Clark was the conductor when I joined, and he and John Schutz were very supportive of returning (and new) students. They help you grow and mature as a musician even in one’s retirement (even though I am not retired) years. It is also a wonderful group of people that enjoy making music together.”
NHB’s sister organization in Las Cruces is the New Horizons Orchestra, from which it split a few years ago.
To give NHB a more regional flavor, Schutz hopes it soon will be able to perform with the NHB of Rio Rancho, and maybe even do some musician exchanges from time to time. “That’s my grand plan,” he said. “Whatever band we are, we’re going to be damned good,” he said.
Schutz said he is always taking ideas for pieces and performances from band members. Being part of NHB is “musically exciting,” Schutz said. “You can tell by the sparkle.”
For more information on New Horizons Band, contact Nora at 649-1465 or ndyaryan68@gmail. com. Visit www.la-tierra. net/nhband/ and http:// newhorizonsmusic. org/ new- horizons- groups/ new- mexico- new- horizons/.
ABOVE: The Cleveland Family, Daryl, Lori Zack and Annika, all play with the New Horizons Band.