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Making Music At Any Age

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
February 28, 2007

Patrice MacNevin’s 15-year-old son isn’t the only one who knows how to rock.

An administrative assistant with hospitality services, MacNiven found her own rhythm after spending a couple of years driving Dylan to weekly drum lessons at the Bell Center Music School in Dover.

“I’d listen to all the kids playing and think, ‘I’d like to learn how to play an instrument,” MacNevin says.

Three years ago, she put that thought into action and took up the flute. Never mind that she hadn’t played one before. Or that she couldn’t read a note of music. She grew up listening to Jethro Tull. Ian Anderson, the group's leader was self-taught. His influence and her Celtic roots made the flute a natural choice.

So, she signed on at the Bell Center, too, taking lessons from UNH music major graduate Aubrie Dionne, now an adjunct lecturer for flute at Plymouth State University. When Dionne left the Bell Center, MacNevin found her way to another UNH grad, Kibbie Straw, who works at the Bell Center and at the Portsmouth Music and Arts Center where MacNevin is a member of a New Horizons band.

It was Straw who led MacNevin to the Portsmouth music school. She suggested MacNevin attend a ‘reading night’ where people sit in with a band to see if they would like to join.

MacNevin did.

“The great thing about the New Horizon program is that it’s for adults,” MacNevin says. “The average age is probably 50 but it can be recent graduates to 75-year-olds. And we play all kinds of music: swing, pop, classical, the Beatles.”

The Portsmouth Music and Arts Center offers instruction for all ages on everything from the piano and guitar to the flute and viola. The Albany Street arts center gives voice lessons, too. And, they provide musicians the chance to play with a number of different bands.

New Horizons ensembles—the program was launched at the Eastman School of Music—gives adults the chance to “experience the joy of music.” People who have always yearned to play an instrument or those who played as a child and want to take it up again are prime students. But PMAC also has a place for the seasoned musician.

There’s a 10-week introductory course for novices that prepares them to join the New Horizons Band or the String Orchestra. Both the orchestra and the band are geared toward beginners. PMAC also has a wind ensemble, a jazz band and a blues group.

A few times a year, the bands perform at area benefits.

MacNevin practices for about thirty minutes whenever she has time. Once a week she’s at PMAC for a half-hour private lesson and then a two-hour session with the group.

“I didn’t even know how to read music when I started. It’s like learning Spanish,” MacNevin says.

In the beginning, she’d spend an hour working with three or four people and then join the band for the second hour. Her flute partner, Jenn Johnston, used to be in the UNH Wind Symphony.

“It’s a good thing to do combined ensembles so if you miss a note here or there it doesn’t matter; there are so many levels of experience,” MacNevin says. “That’s one of the things I like the most: there’s no pressure.”

MacNevin admits to being scared the first time she performed for an audience. It was at a Kittery, Maine, church for a food drive benefit. Her husband was away but her son and her in-laws came.

“I was shaky and sweaty. But once I started, I was fine,” she says. “If I can do this, anyone can.”

To contact PMAC call 603-431-4278 or go to www.PMAConline.org

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