Summer Band Concerts Are Music to the Ears

For the next two Sundays, Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission brings us two Summer Band Concerts reminiscent of the days when NCAC brought us the Summer Band Concert series in Old Town’s Seminary Park.

While the stage is much larger at Federal Hill and audiences might not be able to get up as close in person to the musicians, what a relaxing time it can still be, sitting in your lawn chairs or on your blankets and picnicking with your family on the next two Sunday nights. It’s just a pleasant and relaxing time to be able to enjoy.

NCAC will offer two free concerts that you won’t want to miss.

The first concert, at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, features the New Horizons Band, which began 29 years ago “as part of an international movement that was to give people in more mature years an opportunity to play their instruments,” said John Marshall, 68, a former high school band director and award-winning teacher who is in his eighth year conducting New Horizons Band.  

“What’s pretty cool about our band, we’re an entry-level point for many members, and we have people who have played with major symphonies as well, with a wide range of proficiencies,” Marshall said.

New Horizons is comparable to other community bands. The band has a good following. Musicians rehearse two mornings a week. The band is vibrant. Musicians are extremely supportive of each other. What’s interesting is, while the minimum age is 50, “the average age is approaching 80,” Marshall said. Band members are ages 50-96.

While some musicians have played instruments in other symphonies in Anderson, Mississippi or Cincinnati, some have never played an instrument or they played 30 or 40 years ago and picked it back up, he said.

While conducting this mixing pot of musical experience, the director meets with beginners an hour before the regular rehearsals. “We don’t expect beginners to get every note, especially difficult pieces,” said Marshall, whose band rehearsals are at Northside Baptist Church in Indianapolis.

While New Horizons is based in Indianapolis, musicians travel from all over the area, to rehearse for the 15-16 performances a year.

Marshall also directs the Indianapolis Municipal Band, which requires “an audition of sorts to get in,” he said. An interested musician sits in with the band, and the section leader and director discuss the player and offer a recommendation. Generally, the Municipal Band plays more difficult music than the New Horizons Band.

“Both bands are very exciting,” he said. “There is more complexity within the music of the Municipal Band. Both play a wide variety of music.”

Marshall said the Municipal Band, by the way, is the longest running community band in the Indianapolis area, celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2024.

Both bands have performed in this Federal Hill venue, and the bands were already in place before Marshall became conductor of both. He said they’ve had good audiences at Federal Hill and, before that, in Seminary Park.

Both groups play a variety of show tunes, marches, a little bit of solo work, “Seventy-Six Trombones,” “Stars and Stripes Forever,” “God Bless the USA,” and more.

The Municipal Band has players, from early 20s (playing trumpet, saxophone, trombone) to two players in their 90s, who both play clarinet.)

Marshall spent 33 years as band director at Pike High School, where he earned one of his biggest honors, in 1993, being named Indiana runner-up Teacher of the Year. He was performing arts chairman at Pike, where there were 1,500 students in performing arts and 384 students in band.

While he was at Pike, he didn’t have any extra time to play in any community bands but only as a guest occasionally.

When Marshall retired eight years ago, he began, not as a player but as director of both New Horizons and Indianapolis Community bands.

Marshall said he’s been a longtime friend of Eric Thornbury, Noblesville High School’s Music Department chair and director of bands. Thornbury and Marc Feeney, director of Fishers Community Chorus, and Brian Swart, all co-founded Hamilton County Community Band about five years ago.  “I’ve actually come in as a guest conductor in rehearsal his top band,” Marshal said, and who co-founded Hamilton County Community Band with Brian Swart.

While he hasn’t ever played in a community band, he preaches lifelong pursuit of playing to all of his music students. While he looked forward to being involved in community band when he retired, he didn’t plan on two opportunities to direct.

Marshall plays first trumpet at least once during the evening at every Municipal Band show, He plays in the band when associate conductor John E. Owen directs. And when Marshall directs, Owen plays the first trumpet. “That happens at every show,” Marshall said.

Owen has 42 years of teaching experience, including serving for 38 years as director of bands and professor of trumpet at Heidelberg University in Ohio, from where he is currently Emeritus professor.

Owens said the Municipal Band has 65 members, hailing from all over the area. Several members drive an hour or more for rehearsals, and one musician has played in the band for 60 years.

Originally Owens had joined the Municipal Band as a trumpet player when he moved to Noblesville and was asked to become a director upon the retirement of a previous director. He grew up in Illinois and earned his Ph.D. degree from The Ohio State University. He’s 71 and regularly attends concerts by other bands and particularly enjoys the concerts at Federal Hill Commons. “I think it’s a wonderful benefit to the citizens of Noblesville.”

While the Municipal Band members wear black tuxedos and attire during the indoor concerts, they are very casual when performing at Federal Hill in the summertime. New Horizons Band members wear maroon logo polo shirts and khaki pants. The Municipal Band musicians wear white shirts with logos and black pants. Marshall is thrilled about the upcoming concerts. “People will really enjoy both weekends,” he said. “They’re fun and enjoyable. The bands play well. And I think they have a good selection of music.”  

Want TO GO?

What: Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission presents Summer Outdoor Band Concerts When: 6:30 p.m. Sundays, Aug. 20 and 27.

Where: Federal Hill Commons. 175 Logan St., Noblesville.

How much: Free.

Bands to perform: New Horizons Band on Aug. 20, Indianapolis Municipal Band on Aug. 27.

Good to know: Lawn chairs, blankets, picnicking invited.

Where to find more: and,

-Read more about NCAC’s upcoming events, including a Vintage Film Series, which all have connections to Hamilton County, Aug. 28, Sept. 23, and Oct. 28 in the Lacy Arts Building, in the Betsy Reason column in an upcoming edition of The Times. All of NCAC events are free, although donations are accepted. Visit