SENIOR CITIZENS’ MUSIC PARTICIPATION
In most parts of the world, there have long been community musical groups in which senior citizens could participate. In fact, most groups are not identified by age or any other characteristic of senior citizenship. They tend to be defined by the community or the group itself. Many writers have contributed wonderfully to a journal dedicated to community music, International Journal of Community Music, since 2007 and to specialized books on the topic (Coffman, 2009c; Higgins, 2012; Veblen, Messenger, Silverman, & Elliott, 2013). Despite the global phenomenon of an increasingly aging population and a growing scene in community music involvement, we draw mostly from the United States, where the core of the current project is situated.
Community musical groups in which senior citizens commonly participate in the United States tend to be dominated by the types of groups found in secondary schools— band, choir, and orchestra—and they tend to be located in communities with a musician population large enough to sustain these types of ensembles. The number of such groups specifically intended for senior citizens is increasing. One type of organization that promotes community musical involvement for senior citizens is the New Horizons International Music Association, which supports bands, orchestras, choruses, jazz and swing groups, and other types of music ensembles. The first New Horizons band began in 1991 (New Horizons International Music Association, 2014). At the time of this writing, the website of the organization lists 214 ensembles in Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United States, which is the home of most of the ensembles. Rural areas with smaller populations might have smaller musical groups that fit the needs of the individuals and the community, and these would tend to be more flexible and informal.
Worth mentioning also are the church musical groups in which many senior citizens participate. While these groups may include instrumental and vocal groups or a combination of the two, they tend to be dominated by vocal groups. They are designed for religious purposes and welcome individuals of all ages to participate.
As far as can be determined, there is no datum regarding the number and types of musical groups available to senior citizens. We imagine that it could be an impossible task to compile this information, because not all such musical groups are registered with a parent organization. Some groups might just be formed in someone’s home. Regardless of how one tries to find out this information, there will always be groups that are omitted. We approach this project with an open attitude, without a preset framework that limits the nature of senior citizens’ music participation other than the operational definitions that we are obliged to use in empirical studies.