Article for New Horizons Newsletter

The New Horizons Band of Rio Rancho, New Mexico




Those of us who have spent our entire career bringing music into the lives of myriad young people cannot just give it up and fade into the Southwestern sunset.  There must be another challenge. What about readjusting from youngsters to oldsters?  Really?  Yea, indeed, verily, there are new horizons.  When my wife, Sandy, came home from a visit with her tenor sax playing chiropractor with the plaint that his band in Rio Rancho needed a trumpet player that piqued my interest.  It was a band called New Horizons. What trumpet player isn’t inbred to feel needed? So I went to a rehearsal and enjoyed the camaraderie of this fledgling group of senior musicians. Following a few sessions it became obvious that the current music director would appreciate having a second conductor so that she could do her first love of playing horn rather than conducting all the time. Having retired after 35 years in band classrooms did I need to dive into a new conducting assignment?  Of course! So I signed on.

The founder of this unique band is Rio Rancho resident and Physical Therapist Christine Sargent.  She had been playing the piano at home for pleasure and the hand bells at her church for about eight years and decided to return to playing her clarinet after many years. After six months back on the clarinet, Christine was interested in playing in a band again. She knew about the Rio Rancho Symphonic Band and a couple of adult bands in Albuquerque, but she was not quite ready for that. She then thought that it would be nice to have a senior adult band specifically for people interested in returning to playing their instrument or for those who have never even played an instrument before. She also felt this would provide many benefits for the older adult such as engaging in ensemble music again, providing a new skill learning opportunity, a social outlet and just plain fun. She did a Google search about this concept and found the New Horizons International Music Association, which fit exactly what she was looking for. She looked into the New Horizons program and sent away for planning membership information about how to start a group.

And so New Horizons Band of Rio Rancho was begun in May 2009.  The band started with under a dozen individuals, most having played in the past, some brand new and a few more experienced musicians.  They were very fortunate, thanks to the management at Vista Grande Active Adult Community, to use open space in that facility.  Finding experienced band directors was the next challenge, but in time this was accomplished first with Leslie Jacobs, retired from Washington State, public schools and then to our current directors of Ron Lipka and Frank Rivera.  Ron, now 81, has 35 years in the classroom at elementary, junior high, high school and university levels and is a member of the New Mexico Music Educators Association Hall of Fame.  Frank served New Mexico students for 38 years in band classrooms in addition to notable military experience. With careful direction, hard work and determination by all, our band has grown to over forty members today. Of note is the band’s attraction to retired music educators as there are currently ten ex-music teachers as members supplementing the widely varied professions of the group ranging from medical doctor, chiropractor, physical therapist, nurse classroom teacher, military officer, municipal official, etc.  Pat Raikes, a retired diplomat, is in the percussion section and says,  “I belonged to a New Horizons band in Iowa before moving to New Mexico, and I was delighted to learn a band was starting here. With nine original players, we had two French horns, but no percussion.  In true New Horizons spirit, I decided to learn percussion.  The band has grown a lot, and the camaraderie has only become greater with each addition. It is a joy to play!"  Mark Goodrum has been a music educator for 33 years, “During my teaching years I realized how wonderful it is to give music to children and adults. I thought it could not get any better, until I retired and joined the Rio Rancho New Horizon Band. This band, the atmosphere of the rehearsals, the professionalism of the playing and the wonderful performances has given back to me the beauty of music.”

From Maria Cortez: “I had always wished I could play the marimba, but never had attempted to inquire about getting started. When the New Horizons Band gave me the opportunity to explore the percussion possibilities open to me, I purchased a beginner’s bell kit and was on my way to being a “percussionist” for the first time in my many “summers of life” and into my “sunset years!”  Kay Yoest adds “The New Horizon Band program gave me a second life, mentally, socially, and emotionally, after working 35 years and then medically retiring.  I had read articles on NHBs in my previous city and kept these for retirement and it happened at 53.  After relearning my instrument that first year, I went on to join 4 additional music groups.  Upon moving to Albuquerque last year, the first thing I did was attend the local NHB to make friends, learn of other music opportunities, and enjoy playing in a relaxed atmosphere.  NHB’s rock!”

A recent airing on PBS entitled "Music for Life" sparked a new wave of interest and this past fall we welcomed seven newer musicians to our ranks with the goal of joining the larger band. Having a beginning band in addition to our full concert band has been an interesting and satisfying experience. In addition to our growth in size, our band has also grown in musicality.

   In the seven years since its founding, the Rio Rancho band has concentrated on preparing and performing concerts in our area. We began with simple tunes from a standard band method and, as our instrumentation and skills grew, we now have added some standard band classics to our repertoire. We have provided concerts in a variety of settings including community centers, retirement homes, local parks, libraries, temples, sometimes in collaboration with patriotic or civic events, sometimes just for the heck of it.  The strength of our group remains the love of making music together in a relaxed atmosphere where every individual enjoys being together with friends in music.

 Ron Lipka


The New Horizons Band of Rio Rancho
Rio Rancho, New Mexico

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