Military service members and veterans in the Midlands now have a unique opportunity to make music with their peers.
The University of South Carolina’s newly formed Congaree New Horizons Armed Services Veterans Band (ASVB) is a concert band exclusively for veterans of all ages to make music together. With all instruction coming from military personnel the band is not only for veterans, but by veterans.
USC’s program is modeled after a project created and inspired by the New Horizons International Music Association (NHIMA) and mentored by New Horizons’ founder, Dr. Roy Ernst, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester.
“Veterans who become involved in a band connect to life in new ways. They’re going to have new friends. They’re going to be working towards things in the future together. They’re going to be working in the present and will have a place to go every week,” says Dr. Ernst.
Amanda (Mandi) Schlegel, University of South Carolina School of Music Assistant Professor of Music Education and director of the Congaree New Horizons Band (CNHB) is bringing the program to the Columbia campus. Retired Chief Warrant Officer Four William (B.J.) Brazier, a former US Army Bands Commander and Conductor; newly appointed Conductor of the Columbia Community Concert Band will conduct the new Armed Services Veterans Band of the Congaree New Horizons Band Program.
New Horizons programs are usually designed for people ages 50 and older who wish to fulfill musical goals and have new experiences and be surrounded by supportive friends.
The Armed Services Veterans Band however is for all ages.
Learning music at any age, particularly in a group environment, is a fulfilling and valuable experience, and can have a profound effect on a person’s health and wellbeing.
Schlegel says she recognized the importance of inviting veterans of any age to join ASVB while reviewing the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report prepared by the Veterans Administration; she was struck by data regarding 18- to 34-year-olds, an age group that is not traditionally served by a New Horizons program.
“When you look at the suicide rates and the mental health issues of veterans you can see how much this group needs this program,” says Schlegel.
Music propagates social bonding, empathy and interpersonal skills. There’s just so much value socially and cognitively from being in a musical ensemble.
— Amanda (Mandi) Schlegel, University of South Carolina School of Music Assistant Professor of Music Education
ASVB conductor B.J. Brazier has a two-fold vision for ASVB that includes first bringing beginners together and then uniting these new musicians with more experienced members.
“There are endless possibilities for this group. For each and every veteran who has never played an instrument but has the desire to learn, we will provide the opportunity to learn about the instrument that they chose, encouraging them to practice, and helping them enjoy the fellowship of being around others who served our great nation and were ready to give their all for it,” says Chief Brazier. “Those who already know of the discipline that it takes to improve on their craft will have the opportunity to show all who should come and listen to them what they can do with this in making music a better part of life.”
Participation in the concert band is offered free of charge.
“No veteran will pay to be a part of ASVB. Nothing. We will provide music, instruction, instruments, and fellowship to these veterans, who have already made many sacrifices,” explains Schlegel. “We hope the offerings within New Horizons, particularly ASVB, enriches their lives and spirit.”
“USC has made significant strides over the last five years, to provide more institutional and holistic support, services, and programs for the veteran and military population, both on campus and throughout the community,” shared Jared Evans, Executive Director of USC’s Department of Veterans & Military Affairs. “As a Marine Corps veteran and alum of USC, it’s been incredible to see the evolution of how USC engages and interacts with the veteran and military community. I was delighted to hear about the ASVB when I met with Mandi and Roy, and am excited about the positive impact ASVB will have on veterans and service members through the power of music.”
To learn how you get involved or learn more about the Congaree New Horizons program, click here.