J.O.Y. Band #401 *

Honoured by the J.O.Y. BAND members past and present

North Bay’s J.O.Y. Band (Just Older Youth) began in the fall of 2007 under the auspices of Calvin Presbyterian Church where Betty Farris (the group’s founder) was Director of Music. The fledgling, adult-oriented band had its first practice shortly after Thanksgiving with about a dozen members. Open to anyone who wanted to play a band instrument, interest was soon generated. Betty was finding that there were many adults who had always wanted to play an instrument – but, for some reason, had never been given the opportunity. Some were active in school music programs, but had not played for a long time. Many could not read music having had no formal musical training – but they all had a strong interest, commitment and a willingness to learn.

By offering individual help, extra practices and classes in basic music theory, more members were encouraged to join. The band played publicly the first time at the 2007 Christmas Sunday worship service at Calvin Church and the band had grown to over 25 musicians. Now, beginning its fifth season, the ensemble is a fully independent community band with more than 70 members. The band has included members aged 16 through 86 years young, all playing for the joy of music.

The J.O.Y. Band concept is patterned after the New Horizon Band program conceived by Dr. Roy Ernst, a professor at the Eastman School of Music. He believed that anybody, especially and older adult, can learn to play a musical instrument and he established the first New Horizons Band in 1991. North Bay’s band is counted among more than 100 similar programs (directed mostly by retired teachers) throughout the world.

The J.O.Y. Band has three main objectives: help people learn to play an instrument or help them improve existing playing skills; have fun making music with others; spread their joy of making music with others through playing outreach concerts in the community including local churches, seniors centres and at various fundraising events.

Betty Farris invited Neil Kennedy to share in the direction of the band in 2009. Both are retired high school music teachers. They each perform in the band when not conducting.

Band members supply their own instruments and attend two practices weekly, performing a balanced repertoire of varied difficulty. This includes show tunes, swing selections, marches, classical pieces, novelty numbers and formal concert arrangements. Attendance at these practices is never a problem because members are eager to learn and enjoy the social camaraderie and positive accomplishments they create playing together. As stated by one member, “it has opened a whole new world to me. I always leave the practices feeling great!”

When asked about the future of the band, Betty says: “We will keep on having fun making music and sharing it with others.”

If it is true that music is food for the soul, this band of music-makers will undoubtedly be happy feasting for many years to come.