Association History

New Horizons Band Dallas
A Vignette of the History of NHB Dallas

By Jim Jecker***

The New Horizons Band Dallas was formed by Dr. Dahyrl Ramsey, a professor of music history at UNT in Denton with four original members in 1999. The band met in a practice room at Brook Mays Music Company at Sakowitz Village.

Some of our current members, Judy Staser (flute) and Nancy Riordan (trumpet) were charter members. Wes Wilson++ (trumpet, the bandís Spokesman) joined a few months later and was the president of NHB Dallas until 2005.

Dr. Ramsey adopted the concept and the name New Horizons Band from a program that originated at the Eastman School of Music in 1991. We owe our existence to his willingness to take the time to organize the band, drive to Dallas from UNT Denton and contribute personally to making it happen.

In 1991 Dr Roy Ernst at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, organized a band program for seniors that had been on his heart since the 1980's. He began by forming the first band at Eastman and helped organize others. Dr Ernst went on to found the New Horizons Band Association and later changed it to the New Horizons International Music Association when the program was expanded to include other music programs such as orchestra and choirs.

NHIMA produced a "How to Organize" manual, newsletters, brochures and offered personal assistance to help people interested in starting such a program. His program was originally for people 50 years of age or older, although, in 2005, the NHIMA program was changed to include any adult that reads music that has the time flexibility to participate. Their information is provided to anyone who is interested. Because many of the "bands" exist on university campuses and under the control of universities and / or professors, they may include younger people and students. The NHB Dallas considered this change and voted to maintain the age 50 or over qualification for membership. But the band welcomes people of any age who may want to play with us from time to time.

The New Horizons program now has over 125 music organizations in Canada, the USA and Ireland. I encourage you to go to the following link and read Dr Ernst's description and thoughts about the program. Navigate around the site while you're there and learn more about NHIMA.

Although the Dallas NHB has been in touch with Dr Ernst several times over the years to get information and seek his council, we only recently joined the NHIMA with a $25 annual member fee. Our participation simply helps support the program. Membership also gives us more exposure to interested people, keeps us informed about events such as music conferences and camps, and makes us aware of other "bands" around the nation. For example, people moving to our area often find us through the NHIMA web page. Go to the "groups" button while you're on their site and look at the list of other "bands" around the country. In 2011 we joined with the bands from Denton and Norman, OK, to present a joint Christmas benefit for seniors at the Murchison Music Center at UNT in Denton.

NHIMA is not a franchise. There are absolutely no NHIMA legal or organizational ties, nor are there regulations of any kind on NHB Dallas. Everything from NHIMA is done to share the concept and information and encourage the development of the program. Each local New Horizons organization is free to build its own organization under the spirit of the concept. Some are non-profit organizations like NHB Dallas, many are not. There are no two the same. Some operate as continuing education college courses. Some are independent and self supporting like NHB Dallas.

Some exist in the music halls of universities and never travel or give outside concerts. Some have two or three bands for different skill levels - usually where they have access to on-campus resources for teaching and directing. Some have higher dues that include music lessons and sectional rehearsals weekly. Some rehearse twice a week. There are some with 90 members and some with 10 members. There are organizations scattered over 32 states. Whenever you travel, consider stopping in to visit or play with them. You will always be welcome and you'll almost surely make new music friends. Some are directed by famous directors and musicians. Information about each organization is on the NHIMA web site.

Now, a little more about NHB Dallas. Wes Wilson continued to lead the organization until the end of 2004, after 4 years of tireless effort and "jack of all tasks" with Judy Staser and Joann Aukes as the treasurer and secretary. In 2004, the band outgrew the room at Brook Mays and moved to the Carrollton Senior Center. CSC does not charge the band for the use of the facility. However, each member must join the Senior Center for access to the facility and its programs.

In 2005, due to its expanding concert schedule, NHB Dallas hired Dr. Robert (Bob) Austin**, a professional director. At that time Dr Ramsey decided to discontinue his involvement in the program. Although Dr Ramsey was a professor at UNT and the band had hired graduate student directors through him, NHB Dallas has always been a self supporting organization and never had a direct relationship or support from UNT. In October of that year, NHB Dallas became a non-profit 501(c)(3) Association.

Now, a little flashback. In early 2005, a group of NHB members interested in performing stage band music started a stage band under the early management of its founder Dale Rude+++++(trumpet) and Dick Raymond+++ (clarinet) and began performances. Later in 2005, after NHB Dallas became a non-profit Association, the stage band, known then as the Pacemakers, was incorporated into NHB Dallas and adopted the name UpSwing Jazz Band.

In 2011 Frank Bray, one of the NHB Dallas trumpet players, started a Dixieland band, utilizing NHB members where possible. The group chose the name DixieSwing.

In 2015 Tom Laney and other NHB Dallas low brass players, started the Dallas Low Brass ensemble.

In 2017 Mica Calfee and other NHB Dallas players, interested in broadening their capabilities in improvisation, started the JazzLand ensemble.

In early 2020 the world was hit with the Covid-19 pandemic. All our groups had to cease rehearsals and performances through the remainder of the year, with one exception. Tired of staying at home and wanting to play their music in mid 2020, four French Horn players from the concert band began rehearsing in an open garage with plenty of space and air circulation to be safe and to follow state mandates. They named their group the Garage HORNets, recognizing they "swarmed their garage with horns". The group joined the NHBD Association in the latter part of 2020.

Unfortunately, we lost one of our charter members in 2020, Judy Staser, leaving Nancy Riordan as the only one remaining. In 2021 Nancy made the decision to resign from the NHB Dallas for health reasons.

The rest, as they say, is history. The Association has a great scrapbook that has been kept faithfully, with tender care and lots of time by Vicki Sims. Make it a point to get it sometime and look through it. Our meager but dedicated and enthusiastic roots are there - right up to current times.

Well, that's the history vignette for now. I hope you found it informative and that it piqued your interest a little. If you really want the "skinny", ask one of our charter members. They are a treasure of information.

Edited by Walt Dean++++, President 2006-2008, and Frank Bray, Webmaster 2007-present.

** Bob Austin suffered a massive heart attack and passed away on April 17, 2008.

*** Jim Jecker is a past President of NHBD and played trombone, but switched to tuba at a time when the Band had no tuba player. He decided to leave the Band in early 2008. Certain portions of his text have been edited to reflect current and correct information. The original publication has been preserved in a separate file.

++ Wes Wilson passed away April 4, 2011.
+++ Dick Raymond passed away April 29, 2012.
++++ Walt Dean passed away February 24, 2018.
+++++ Dale Rude passed away early August 2020.

Copyright © 2009 New Horizons Band Dallas Association. All rights reserved.