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Which band should I join?

Please read these descriptions to see where you fit in:

You have never played an instrument before.  You would become part of our Bytown Beginner Band. You would receive 1 hour of instrument instruction in a group setting along with 1 hour of band over a 6-week period, and then consolidate your learning with an additional 5–6 weeks of two-hour band rehearsals. You will be taught the basics – putting your instrument together, getting a sound, learning to read music, learning and playing a scale, playing very simple pieces from the method book as well as 3–4 easy music scores (level .5–1)

You have an extensive musical background (perhaps on piano or strings) but are starting on a new-to-you instrument.  You will need to join the Bytown Beginner Band, as you will need the basic instrument skills including care of the instrument, hand position, embouchure, etc.  The new musicians in your group will appreciate your help as you all learn a new instrument together.

You are returning to playing after a lengthy absence.  It might be beneficial to start with the Bytown Beginner Band to rebuild your embouchure and your confidence, and you will be supporting the true beginners (we often do pieces with a first and second part, and need some players who can handle some of the higher notes).  However, it is possible to join one or both Intermediate 1 bands – Riverside Rondos or OTown Octaves – or even an Intermediate 2 band – Elgin Encores or Capital Crescendos – if you resume playing a few months before joining.

Your life is full of commitments, but you want to play enjoyable music in an ensemble at a level where your musicality can shine.  Intermediate 1 band Riverside Rondos or OTown Octaves may be a perfect fit, with music at level 1–2.

You play your instrument on a regular basis and would prefer to have 1 hour of instrument instruction and 1 hour of band for 3–4 weeks, and then focus on sectionals and ensemble playing.  Intermediate 2 Band is a great option, with two choices:  Elgin Encores on Tuesday evenings or Capital Crescendos on Monday afternoons. Music will be a variety of levels, with many pieces falling in the range of 2–3.5.

You play your instrument on a regular basis and can easily sight read music in Essential Elements book 2 at tempo with expression.  You enjoy the challenge of music at level 3–4.  You would be a good candidate to join the Rideau Cadences Advanced Band. The emphasis is on ensemble playing with attention to detail.

You have played your instrument for at least one year, are comfortable playing most of the music in Essential Elements Book 1, have a basic knowledge of music theory, and would like to explore the jazz genre.  The Jumpin’ Jazz Band will introduce you to jazz rhythms and styles and give you an opportunity to play big band-type music as well as blues, funk, rick, Motown,etc..  Traditional jazz and many concert band instruments are welcome.

You have mastered at least four major scales, have three or more years of experience playing and reading music, and have played in the Jumpin’ Jazz Band or have some experience playing jazz elsewhere.  You are probably a member of an intermediate or advanced ONHB concert band.  The Downtown Jazz Band welcomes all the traditional jazz instruments, as well as flutes, clarinets, baritone/euphonium,and possibly other instruments, with the prior approval of the band leader.

You have a few years of experience on your instrument, and are ready to take on the challenge of learning a wider and varied jazz repertoire.  The Two Beats Ahead Jazz Band is set up with the same instrumentation as a traditional big band.  New members are accepted as required to balance the ensemble, and are usually referred from the membership of the Downtown Jazz Band or another ONHB ensemble.

We do have a Spring Extension each May – June, and many musicians from our Bytown Beginner Band join in with the more experienced musicians for one of the Spring Extension Concert Bands, which usually have 40-55 musicians of all levels playing about 7–8 pieces of a variety of levels.  Your best is good enough.  Beginners often “edit” their parts, playing the sections of each piece that they are confident playing.  Most ONHB takes the summer period of July and August off. Like anything, the more effort you put into learning a new skill or fine tuning that skill, the more rewards and benefits you will see. We suggest that you practice every day.

Which instruments could I choose to learn through ONHB?

  • Flute
  • Oboe
  • Clarinet/bass clarinet
  • Bassoon
  • Saxophone (alto, tenor baritone)
  • Trumpet
  • French horn
  • Trombone
  • Euphonium/Baritone
  • Tuba
  • Bass guitar
  • Percussion (includes bells, xylophone, drums, tambourine, etc.

On the registration page, you can see what your instrument choices are for any band by clicking on that band and scrolling to the drop down list.

How long is the program?

The fall and winter sessions are 11–12 weeks in length.  There is a dress rehearsal and a shared concert at the end of each session in which each band performs up to 15 minutes of music for family, friends and the community.  In addition, each band plays at least one community concert, usually in the spring, sharing the repertoire learned throughout the year at a seniors’ residence or for a charity event.  Some of the bands may also perform at a church service, local music festival, or park bandstand.

There are a variety of spring extensions that generally run 8 weeks.

What is the demographic of ONHB members?

Our musicians range in age from 18 to 90+, and we all share a passion for music!  Many of the New Horizons band programs which started in the United States in the 1990s were geared to serving retired folk.  When we began our Ottawa program in 2008, we opened the doors to all adults.  Our Ottawa NHB membership includes not only a wide age range, but also an interesting group of people with backgrounds as diverse as public servants, educators, medical and legal professionals, animators, college and university students, and even professional musicians looking to expand their skills to a new instrument.

How do I choose an instrument?

Each June (usually the second Wednesday in June), there is an information meeting for anyone interested in joining.  A selection of instruments are made available by a local music store for you to try out, and several ONHB musicians come to tell you about their instrument and their experience with ONHB.  You may be attracted to certain instruments for their sound, and you will find out if you are physically suited to playing the instruments which you prefer.  Another consideration is your preferred genre of music.  If you love Jazz, then the trumpet, trombone, sax or electric bass may be for you.  If you love the music of the Renaissance and Baroque periods and have some previous music experience, then perhaps the oboe or French horn is right for you!  The flute and clarinet are popular choices too.  Percussion is a fun challenge for people with lots of energy, as you often have to move between snare drum, bass drum, timpani, tambourine, xylophone, concert bells, etc.  In Beginner Band, you are encouraged to play the instrument you wish to learn  (we balance the sound of the band at concert time by adding in three or four musicians to fill any holes in the texture — often with a tuba and an extra percussionist, and wherever there is a lone beginner — we want you to feel supported!)

The best option when you are first starting out is to rent an instrument from a reputable music store until you are certain of your choice.  If you play percussion, purchase a set of sticks and drum pad so that you can practice at home during the week. If you say you are joining New Horizons, St. John’s Music offers the second and third month free (or deferred, if you are renting to own).  This way, you know you have an instrument that is in good working order.  If Long and McQuade or Musicare are more convenient for you, they also have very knowledgeable education staff who are eager to help you find the right instrument.

ONHB does have a few instruments which are available for loan, some which have been donated and some more costly ones which we have purchased to help balance our bands.  We also have percussion instruments which are used at rehearsals, and which may sometimes be signed out for practise.

What do I need to bring to rehearsals?

You will need:

  • an instrument in good working order (plus reeds if you play clarinet, oboe, or sax) and instrument care materials such as valve oil/cork grease/slide cream, cleaning cloth, etc.  If you are a percussionist or electric bass player, talk to your band leader about what to bring,
  • a portable music stand
  • a method book (check the Our Bands section), or your band director will inform you by email close to the session start.
  • a pencil
  • a music stand light (optional, but especially helpful if you have vision issues)

Is there parking?

Yes. Free parking is available at all venues, as are transit services.

Who are the clinicians?

Our ONHB instrument clinicians are either professional musicians and music teachers or top music students at Ottawa University who also have a passion for teaching.  Their credentials are impeccable and many have been with ONHB for several years. They guide you into establishing a good solid technical playing base and continue to build on that base as you move through the Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced programs.

What does it cost?

Fees per session are set by the ONHB volunteer board of directors to cover anticipated expenses such as rehearsal and concert venues, band leaders, clinicians, music, insurance coverage, website, and other costs.  Fees for the 2020 winter session will be $190 for the first band and $125 for each additional band.  Spring session fees will also increase.

How do I register?

Click here to register online.  Payment is by PayPal, credit card via the PayPal portal, email transfer or cheque. Once you have registered and paid, there’s nothing more you need to do immediately.  All the information you’ll need regarding where and when your band meets and what you should bring to rehearsals can be found on this website on the Our Bands pages and in the FAQ.

Sometime during the registration process, you may see a notice on the Registration Page that a particular band is approaching its capacity.  In this event, you should contact the band leader to indicate your interest and determine if there is space for your instrument. Alternately, you could register for a different band.

Will I be able to play my selected instrument in the band of my choosing?

There is the possibility that the band you’ve selected may get more registrations than the rehearsal room can accommodate.  If this happens with your band, then you may be contacted by one of the band leaders before the session begins to discuss whether a different instrument or band would be acceptable to you.  Our hope and intent is that everyone who wants to play in one of our bands is able to do so, but if nothing can be worked out, rest assured that you will receive a full refund and will be encouraged to try to register again for a later session.

As noted above under Which band should I join, the advanced jazz band, Two Beats Ahead, is structured like a traditional big band, and so accepts new members as required to replace those who are departing.  If interested, contact the TBA band leader to see what positions are open.

Will I get a refund if I need to withdraw?

A member withdrawing from a band before the third rehearsal of the fall or winter session (and before the second rehearsal for spring extension bands) will receive a full refund, minus a $25 administrative fee. Refunds will not be provided for later withdrawals.

To withdraw, please send an email to Anna Tessier and your band leader to advise them of your decision. Please tell them why you are leaving so that we may improve the ONHB experience for our members.

How can I share my feedback?

The band leaders and clinicians appreciate feedback provided by our ONHB members.  If you prefer, you can also speak to your band’s representative on the Advisory Committee (the band rep is selected by the band for a two-year term).  We also run a survey for all members in the spring to help us fine-tune our program.  All comments are carefully considered, and many great suggestions have been implemented.