Play It Foward

Play It Foward

Read Beverly Maville-Letter's blog now.

Pictured (L-R): Bill Nictlauser, Airis Lee, Kasey Baker, Duane Palyka

Credit: Thomas Dooley

Eastman New Horizons’ band member Beverly Maville-Letter shares the history of New Horizons Mentor Program.

George Eastman’s philanthropic efforts in Rochester, NY are legendary, but his founding of Eastman School of Music and its sister school, Eastman Community Music School reflected his passion for music by offering training for musicians from childhood on. In 1919, Eastman also provided $15,000 for band and orchestra instruments for Rochester school children.

Fast forward to 1991, when Eastman’s vision expanded with the founding of New Horizons. Eastman could not have known how the legacy he left through Eastman School of Music and Community School would become a global phenomenon through Roy Ernst and New Horizons. At the same time in Rochester, urban schools were struggling to provide any extra instructional enrichment.

Through an unusual set of circumstances a connection was made with Clinton Bell, principal at Rochester School #22, who also dreamed that his school would have a band program. Stephen Georger, a faculty member and general music teacher, recruited a select group of 16 students (good grades required) and by January there were 12 New Horizon mentors who gave an hour a week. After working hard, the fledgling band made its debut at a mini-concert in March, then performed in their Spring Concert with smiling parents, faculty, and mentors proudly looking on in June.

One young musician expressed a desire to audition at Rochester School of the Arts. He had just started studying the sax in January 2014. He worked hard as his mentors helped him prepare an audition piece and two scales. Our young saxophonist passed his audition and has just begun his first year in middle school at the School of the Arts.

In May, Eastman New Horizons welcomed the new band as guests to our annual Spring Concert at Kodak Hall, the beautiful concert hall of Eastman School of Music. The children were treated to a limo ride and dinner before the concert, and were recognized in the concert for their hard work and dedication.

“Playing It Forward” is our mantra, picking up on what was started in 1919 with George Eastman’s gift of band instruments to Rochester children and helping renew the music program in the city, where more musical ideas are beginning district wide. The children and mentors are all thriving in an atmosphere of deep respect and affection. The Band Program in School #22 has grown to almost 40 members and over 20 volunteer mentors. George Eastman would have been pleased.

This blog was written by Eastman New Horizons’ band member Beverly Maville-Letter.

New Horizons is the subject of WXXI’s newest documentary, “Music for Life: The Story of New Horizons,” premiering on WXXI-TV December 4 at 8 p.m. and streaming live at In the hour-long program you’ll meet New Horizon founder Dr. Ernst, who shares why he felt compelled to start the music program for seniors and many of the New Horizons’ musicians, who rekindled or found, for the first time, their passion for music. You’ll also learn more about the mentor program that Beverly talks about .

To learn more about the program, visit: