Portsmouth Music and Arts Center Executive Director Russ Grazier conducts the New Horizons Band in rehearsal. Photo by Cheryl Senter.

Portsmouth Music and Arts Center Executive Director Russ Grazier conducts the New Horizons Band in rehearsal. Photo by Cheryl Senter.

Building a stronger community through the arts

The Portsmouth Music and Arts Center makes music and art accessible to everyone

Russ Grazier readies his baton. Flutes are poised; the trombone, clarinet and tuba players inhale and…the New Horizons Band fills this hall with the sound of gladness.

The mission at the Portsmouth Music and Arts Center is “building community through the arts.”

This rendering of the Variation Overture — and every other note played here, and every brush stroke applied to canvas — is about building community.

Some 700 students, kids and adults alike, participate in more than 30 programs, plus private instruction, in music and visual arts. This band is one of 20 ensembles — ranging from bluegrass to big band.

“It’s an integral part of my life,” said clarinetist Gail Berneike. Her support networks are her church and the PMAC community.

Grazier, who founded PMAC with his wife Katie Grazier, said the organization is committed to “Making music and art accessible to everyone, and in such a way that, when you sit in a classroom, there is no socioeconomic barrier between anyone.”

Generous donors have made it possible for the Foundation to support PMAC with grants for operating support and capacity-building since 2005. Donor advised fund holders at the Foundation were leaders in PMAC’s capital campaign to purchase and refurbish its new building. Those donors, who contributed $94,000 from their Foundation funds in 2014, “showed the rest of the community that this could be done and that it was important — and the rest of the community followed their lead,” Grazier said.

“PMAC is one of the best things that has ever happened in the community.”
- Steve Workman, tuba player for The New Horizons Band
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The band strikes up another tune.

Joey, a retired cop, is on trumpet. Dick and Basil are septuagenarian percussionists. Rita, 20-something, plays clarinet.

New Horizons’ motto: “Your best is good enough.”

Dennis Souto picked up the saxophone at 53 and learned to play with this band. “All my life, I loved music and wanted to play and never knew how I was going to,” he said.

Steve Workman slides in late with his tuba.

“PMAC has made music accessible again to adults of every talent level,” says Workman, a semi-professional musician. “You can see the passion and you can see the connection that they have with each other.”

The community builds out from here. Small musical ensembles form, whose members met here, and play at nursing homes and other community venues.

PMAC offers about 75 performances a year. About 20 percent of students receive tuition assistance. The organization constantly seeks community connection. PMAC is working with schools and homeless shelters to offer free programs to more kids in need.

Workman sets down his tuba and says, emphatically: “This is one of the best things that has ever happened in the community.”

This story originally appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.