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Encores and New Horizons Band

Encores and New Horizons Band

“Encores” is the Williamsport version of New Horizons Band, an international organization offering “entry points to music-making for adults, including those with no musical experience.”

That’s from the NHB mission statement, which also invites older folks who once played an instrument but haven’t done so since they were young. And it even covers those who want to try a different instrument.

Founded by Dr. Roy Ernst in 1991, NHB now has more than 30 chapters throughout the United States and Canada, including New York, Arizona, Montana, Missouri, Ohio, Utah, Texas, South Dakota, Quebec, Nova Scotia and of course, Pennsylvania.

As the local incarnation enters its 27th year, Encores will hold an open house for interested new members at 10 a.m. on Sept. 26, at the Robert M. Sides Family Music Center in Williamsport.

According to current director Judith Shellenberger, Encores began in Lycoming County back in 1997, when Carol Sides returned from a national music convention where she was introduced to the relatively new concept of NHB, “a band strictly for seniors.”

“She then approached a newly retired Williamsport Area School District Band Director, Albert Nacinovich, about the idea of starting such a band in our area,” Shellenberger said in a recent interview.

“His only request was to get one other director on board. So, Lucy Henry, also a newly retired WASD teacher, became the second director.”

Shellenberger stepped in as a third in 2007 and now serves as the group’s sole director. A well-known local educator and musician, she is among the longest-standing members of Williamsport’s Repasz Band, with nearly 60 years playing in that renowned ensemble; Shellenberger also serves as Repasz Business Manager and works on its Music Selection Committee.

“The goal of New Horizons groups is to create comfortable re-entry point for adults who played music in school and would like to resume after long years of building careers and raising children,” says Shellenberger. “The band is open for anyone over 50 years old wanting to learn to play an instrument, re-learn to play (maybe after having played in high school) or play something different from what they already play.”

Encores currently rehearses from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Sides Music Center, 201 Mulberry St. in Williamsport. Starting out with just 12 players back in the 1990s and now featuring closer to 30, the ensemble performs an annual holiday concert and a spring concert at local nursing homes and for special events.

“There is a nominal fee to cover the cost of instruction and music,” Shellenberger adds. “They provide their own instruments or can rent one from the store.”

The national organization, meanwhile, has an impressive and well-illustrated website at It features recent news, info about regular “virtual events” involving band and music and details on various national music camps and institutes throughout the year. It also has a tab called “Find a Local Group,” where Pennsylvania now shows no less than seven NHBs — with at least three more in development.

“Active participation in music fills important needs for adults,” says Shellenberger. “This includes the need for challenging intellectual activity, the need to be a contributing member of a group and the need to have exciting events in the future.”

According to Shellenberger, when members are asked what the band means to them, replies include: “It helps keep my mind alert”; “It gets me out of the house and around wonderful friends”; “I am involved in the community doing something I love”; “It is a positive outlet for emotions and enjoyable socialization”; “It keeps me feeling youthful”; and of course, “It is fun!”

More info is available at