New Horizons practices weekly at Bell Trace Senior Living Community. Courtesy photo


Whether you’re 8 or 80 years old, there are two new ways for you to make music in Bloomington.

Bridges Musical Arts Youth Organization offers kids the chance to play in orchestral and chamber music ensembles, while New Horizons Bloomington offers adult beginners the same opportunity.

“We want to be a bridge connecting students from public, private, charter, and home schools, as well as from Bloomington and surrounding communities,” says Sarah Strickland, Bridges’ orchestral coordinator and conductor.

This fall, the first group of 16 kids worked on pieces by a contemporary blind composer from Colombia and a 19th-century formerly enslaved person, among others. “That’s another of our aims,” she says. “We want to offer diversity, rather than relying exclusively on the traditional repertoire by long-dead, white, male composers.”

Strickland, who taught her first student at age 14, offers private and group piano, violin, and viola lessons through her Strickland Suzuki Strings studio. “Bridges just makes my heart so happy,” she says. She and Bridges Program Director Maggie Olivo are working closely with accomplished adult volunteer musical coaches, who often play side by side with the young orchestra members to help them learn their parts.

Strickland is also collaborating on the New Horizons adult orchestra with Andrea Kleesattel, a former member of orchestras in Lexington, Kentucky; Madison, Wisconsin; and Japan. Since September, the orchestra has been meeting weekly in a large space at Bell Trace Senior Living Community. The 21 students range in age from their 30s to their 70s, and while some have musical experience, many are brand new to their instruments. No Bell Trace residents have joined yet, but Kleesattel hopes that will change. “We’d really like to make the program accessible to older adults,” she says.

Students were allowed to pick their instrument (violin, viola, cello, or bass) and, providentially, the result yielded a balanced ensemble. “Everyone is moving along so well,” Kleesattel says. “It’s been really wonderful for me as a teacher to see. The students are quite motivated.”

While the more experienced players were able to start rehearsing pieces right away, the beginners have been quickly able to play alongside them. As Kleesattel points out, “Bass lines have only three notes and beginners can play rounds.”

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