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New Horizons Band Fox Valley (NHBFV) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides affordable music education, training and performance opportunities for adults of any level of musical experience, who desire to play in a community band. Adults who wish to play again or learn to play for the first time are invited. All beginners are welcome. No auditions are required.
The NHMFV point of difference from a typical community band is that community musicians are expected to know how to read music proficiently, play skillfully, practice on their own and be well prepared for rehearsal without instruction. The NHBFV program teaches adults at any level of musical ability without judgement, and provides them with a weekly group lesson and rehearsal as a full band, along with the opportunity to perform in seasonal concerts and be part of a band community – in lieu of only taking private lessons and practicing alone at home.
NHBFV consists of a concert band and smaller band ensemble. The band has highly qualified and experienced directors and instructors. Since 2004, our music program has instructed hundreds of adults – many of whom now perform with local community bands.
New Horizons International History
The New Horizons Music movement was started by Prof. Roy Ernst in 1991 at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, and is now an international program with hundreds of bands, orchestras and other ensembles. His philosophy driving the program is that anyone can learn to play music at a level that will bring a sense of accomplishment and the ability to perform in a group; your best is good enough; and no audition is required to join the New Horizons program.
Robert (Bob) Kramer (pronounced Kraah-mer) began playing trumpet in 5th grade because he loved the music he was hearing on the radio being played by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Although he played during grade school, high school and college, Bob did not initially pursue music professionally, as he felt called to be a teacher in the Lutheran schools he had attended while growing up. So playing in a band was put on the “back burner,” and he began his teaching career in 1980, eventually completing 35 years of teaching in Lutheran school classrooms (including Good Shepherd Lutheran School in Omaha, NE, and most recently, Immanuel Lutheran School, Greenville, WI).
So – what takes someone like Bob Kramer from the general education classroom into the music education field? Bob’s educational background and experience took on musical emphasis when his own three children started learning band instruments. Bob joined his children in band by taking on additional duties with the Fox Valley Lutheran Middle School Band Program in 2000, volunteer directing the Wind Ensemble and Cadet Band, teaching individual lessons, and also directing the competitive band. Since then, Bob has been pressing full speed ahead in becoming involved full time as a professional music educator.
Bob holds a B.S. in Education degree from Dr. Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota, and also a Master of Music – Conducting degree from the American Band College of Southern Oregon University. He has completed over 100 post-graduate credits at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, Illinois, and Silver Lake College in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, where he received the Silver Lake College Kodaly Music Concept Certification in 2013, and his Wisconsin State DPI certification for Instrumental Music Education and General Music Education in 2015.
He has performed with the Nebraska Choral Arts Society, the Neenah Community Band (which he also directed from 2004 to 2007), has sung in and also directed the Valley Lutheran Chorale in Appleton, WI, and is continuing his position with the Kimberly Community Band, where he’s been the director since 2001. Bob has extensive experience directing youth and adult choirs for church, and also arranging small group and concert band ensembles for church worship. He is a member of Wisconsin Music Educators Association, and the National Association for Music Educators.
"What a thrill to be the Music Director of the New Horizons Band Fox Valley! I feel a certain kinship to the band members, as my experience in becoming a music educator after a full career is perhaps akin to our band participants learning to play/reconnecting with music after a career/lifetime. While many of us are perhaps now on a 'new frontier' in music facing exciting unknowns, what we DO know is this: it will just continue to be better and better!"
- KRIS BRYAN -- Brass Instructor & Section Leader
Kris Bryan, originally from the Milwaukee area, earned her degree in Music Education from Lawrence University. In 2011 she retired after teaching elementary and middle school instrumental music for 40 years, the last 35 of which were in the Little Chute Area School District.
Kris played horn in the Fox Valley Symphony for 40 years prior to retiring and still performs with the Appleton City Band and in her church brass ensemble. She was a charter member of the Wisconsin Symphonic Winds and has performed with the Serpentine Brass and Wolf Winds. She has also served as a church organist and choir director and played in the Tonka Street Consort recorder ensemble.
"I see music as a life-long gift, both the making and the receiving of it. From birth, or even pre-birth, all the way into the senior years, our hearts and souls are enriched by music of all kinds. From personal experience, I know the blessings that music provides to people at all stages of their lives. I feel very privileged to be able to share this gift in the New Horizons Band program."
- AN R. GEHRMANN -- Woodwinds Instructor & Section Leader (and Band Member - Trumpet)
An R. Gehrman is a graduate of Appleton's Xavier High School and earned her degree in Music from St. Norbert College, De Pere. After 38 years of service, An retired from her career as band director for ACES /Xavier, the last 17 of which were at St. Joseph Middle School.
An has spent a lifetime learning, teaching and performing music, including 40 years with the Fox Valley Symphony. She is also president of the Appleton City Band and has been performing with them for 50 years.
Owing to her many years of teaching, An can play all band instruments except tuba. Although, her primary instrument is Clarinet, followed by other woodwinds, she recently joined the NHBFV's trumpet section because she "wanted a new experience in performing concert music."
"Considering I have been in music as a student, teacher and performer for so many years, I can attest to the joys of playing an instrument
in concert bands and ensembles. The effort and hard work of practices and rehearsals give such a good feeling with the goal and result of the actual performance. I am amazed to hear some of the stories of the members, some of whom have been away from playing an Instrument for 20 years and who want to have that friendship and camaraderie of working together and enjoying the success of a performance, and are thus willing to put in so much personal time to meet that challenge."
- MICHAEL RATSCH -- Percussion Instructor & Section Leader
Michael Ratsch is a magna cum laude graduate of Lawrence University and holds a Master of Music Education degree from the University of Michigan. In 2004, he retired after teaching instrumental music in the public schools for 32 years, the last 30 of which were at Little Chute.
Michael currently operates a private music studio at Appleton Christian School, where he instructs both young and adult students. He also teaches percussion for the Lawrence Arts Academy and is on staff for the New Horizons Band Fox Valley adult band. He is active as an adjudicator and clinician for the Wisconsin School Music Association.
In 2009, Michael retired from the Fox Valley Symphony after performing as a percussionist with that organization for 39 years, and he has been a member of the Appleton City Band for over 30 years. He has also performed with the Green Bay Symphony, the Peninsula Music Festival Orchestra, and the Green Lake Music Festival Orchestra.
"Music has brought profound beauty and joy into my life. It is indeed a privilege to share my love of music with others through teaching."