Robin Black plays the piano.
At age 60, Black is taking up a new instrument — the flute, which she previously could have looked at and viewed as “just a statue.”
Black’s new adventure is through the recently formed Heart of Texas New Horizons Band, which is for people aged 50 and older, no experience necessary.
Howard Payne University’s School of Music and Fine Arts started the band, which is directed by HPU music professor Stephen Goacher. The band had its first session on Jan. 14, and Goacher thinks the band might be ready to perform a small concert in May.
The band rehearses Tuesday and Thursday mornings in HPU’s Doakie Day Art Center.
Some of the band members are brand new to music. Some played earlier but haven’t touched an instrument in decades. Others, like Black, are proficient at an instrument but are learning a new one.
Under Goacher’s kind, friendly tutoring, band members are learning basics such as the meaning of the band director’s arm, hand and finger movements. They’re not trying to play songs yet but are learning to play notes in unison.
And they’re all loving it — including Goacher.
“I played the piano but there’s a total difference,” Black said. “When you play the piano, every single note you play is different. You can play them together. But with the flute, it’s like figuring out a B is these three fingers that you hold down. On a piano you play a B. You play a C. You play a high C. When you’ve got it up there on the score and you touch the note, you know where you’re right or wrong on that.
“On the flute I have to actually look at my fingers to figure out where I’m at. I figure next week I won’t even have to look at my fingers to figure out where the notes are. I’m having a blast.”
Black recalled a moment when she “felt pretty happy that I actually got a sound out of the flute. I got all three notes. Not every single time but pretty darn close … so I was excited.”
The band is the 217th New Horizons band in the United States. Goacher credited Dr. Richard Fiese, dean of the HPU School of Music and Fine Arts, with getting the idea to start a New Horizons band locally.
Goacher has previous experience with a New Horizons band. He started one in 1997 in Colorado, and that band is still going, Goacher said.
“This is something that HPU is offering to the community,” Goacher said. “Although we rehearse here and I’m teaching it, we are calling it the Heart of Texas New Horizons Band because we want to give this to the community and we want to help start building really good relations between the community and Howard Payne.
“It is for the community and we want to community to have ownership of it.”
Jerry Chasten, 64, played the trumpet in grade school and high school but didn’t play for more than 40 years. Now he is taking up the saxophone. “I’ve always wanted to play the saxophone so that’s why I’m here,” Chastain said.
“I never played a note on the sax before. Oh man, I’m eating it up. I encourage anybody who’s even thought about playing an instrument to come give it a shot.”
Chastain’s wife, Janet, is playing the upright three-quarter bass. “I have somewhat played bass guitar, electric, with my hubby,” Janet Chastain said. “We have had several little bands and all I did was POOM-poom POOM-poom. I wanted to learn how to play right so they said you can have the upright bass.
“It’s a lot of fun.”
Other comments from band members included:
• Cayla Furry, 58, is playing the clarinet after playing in high school 43 years ago. She said she’s having to start over. “I don’t know how to read the notes,” Furry said. “I’ve forgotten all that. My first week I practiced, I had my reed on backwards.”
The experience in the band has been “awesome,” Furry said.
• Ricky Carey, 65, is playing the tuba. “I’ve never played in a band,” Carey said. “Always wanted to. My son played the tuba so we had a tuba. It’s been a lot of fun just figuring out how to do it.”
• Sandra Carey, 61, is Rick Carey’s wife and is playing the oboe after playing the flute since fourth grade. “I wanted to play something different,” she said. I’m having a good time.”
Playing the oboe is “different,” Sandra Carey said. “It’s a lot harder, when you already know fingering, to change it and do something different.”
• Donna Carey, 69, is Rick Carey’s sister and is playing the alto sax. “I had piano lessons when I was young, and I was in choir,” she said. “I love it. I always wanted to be in the band my whole life. Now I am. You don’t get too old for anything.”
• Jodie Armstrong, pianist and vocalist and owner of Brownwood Music, is also playing alto sax. “I think the vocal training has helped me with my diaphragm because that’s the same kind of thing, but the rest of it — it’s all new,” Armstrong said. “To be able to study under someone like Steve Goacher is kind of a go-to thing for me.”
Goacher said he’s already seeing improvement out of the band after two weeks.
“I love this,” Goacher said.
Regarding a possible concert in May, Goacher said, “these folks have been really good about going to their children’s and their grandchildren’s concerts and programs, and now it’s time for them to come hear what grandpa and grandma are doing. It’s great fun. We’ll have a good sized audience.”