New Horizons Band finds ways to play together despite COVID-19

GUELPH – “I am enjoying playing music online so much more than I thought I would,” said Patty Buddo, who has played flute in the Guelph New Horizons Band (NHB) for the past three years since her retirement from teaching.

“With the shutdown last winter due to COVID-19, I really missed playing music.

“This has given me an opportunity to re-engage.”

NHB is an international music program for adults to learn to play a musical instrument, or in Buddo’s case, to relearn the instrument she once played in high school.

The NHB Guelph members usually meet weekly to learn and play in a concert band or one of several ensembles but in March, COVID-19 brought a quick halt to gathering.

Brent Rowan, musical director for NHB Guelph, set to work to find ways that members could continue to engage in music remotely.

“The challenge with music over the internet is the lag time or latency for both sound and video,” said Rowan.

“Latency doesn’t really affect a conversation, but it’s deadly for trying to play music together.”

After some months of experimentation, he settled on two platforms.

Jamulus allows a group of musicians to play together in “real time” by adjusting for sound latency.

It is a platform that has been undergoing rapid development and change.

Once a number of technical challenges were addressed, NHB Guelph now has one concert band and two jazz ensembles playing together on this platform since early October.

The other platform makes use of the familiar Zoom technology and the musicians play along to recorded music while Rowan conducts.

While the musicians can’t hear each other, they are learning the same piece of music together.

Rowan figures out what passages people may be struggling with, and guides the musicians in working through learning the music.

He can slow down the music until musicians are comfortable with their parts.

“Of course, one of the things our members value is the opportunity to socialize with each other,” Rowan said.

“So we always have time for members to mingle, sometimes using Zoom breakout rooms.

“And in these COVID times as people are isolated, socializing is more important than ever.”

As Buddo practices her flute for the upcoming Zoom band practice, she commented “It’s not the same as when we can all get together and play, but in these times, it’s a really good substitute.”

While the fall program for NHB Guelph has wrapped up, a new session will be starting up in January and new members are welcome.

More information

For more information, visit or email