IHS 50 Report, Final Thoughts

This is the fourth and final part of a series on the 50th International Horn Symposium (You can read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 here). Although IHS 50 will last through tomorrow (Saturday), I am now at home and reflecting on this year’s symposium. 50 years of horn symposia is a big deal, and I’m sure there were many discussions about how to appropriately commemorate the event. I think IHS 50 was a rousing success, with credit and gratitude going first to Gene Berger and the Ball State University faculty and staff, but also to the IHS Advisory Council, and all the members of the International Horn Society for their part in making this event a reality. As is my usual practice, here are some summary thoughts about the symposium.

  • Looking backwards, looking forwards: Every conference has a particular vibe, created in large part by the host organization and venue, as well as the various lectures, performances, and numerous other less tangible details. For example, IHS 47 in Los Angeles had a very cosmopolitan feel, which fit very well with the city’s role as a cultural, artistic, and economic hub. IHS 48 in Ithaca was very different, given the beautiful natural surroundings of the Finger Lakes region in  New York. IHS 50 was somewhere in between, I feel, but with the added ceremony and nostalgia befitting a Golden Anniversary. Several events looked backwards over the past 50 years, while others looked forward to the future. I thought it was a good mix, and offered something of interest for just about everyone.
  • Exhibits and Gear: Though horns, mouthpieces, and accessories were not a focus for me during this particular IHS (I was on a pretty tight schedule), I did browse past most of the vendor tables. Horn makers and retailers both large and small were in high attendance, and the exhibits were all located in a single building, although signage could have been a bit better in pointing out where specific vendors were located. Sheet music tables were nicely insulated from the instrument exhibits, and private instrument testing rooms were reserved in a more quiet part of the building. Lots of new products were on display, including carbon fiber bell inserts for Marcus Bonna soft top cases, a new carbon fiber case from Pope Repair, and the new case by BAM, a longtime maker of cases for string instruments. All of these products are worth a serious look if you are in the market for a new case. Houghton Horns had their complete line of H series mouthpieces, including the new H-4, and Osmun Music unveiled their commemorative IHS 50 mouthpiece.
  • Social Time: Complimentary coffee and tea were a very nice touch at this symposium, and the Ball State Student Center provided plenty of comfortable spaces for meeting new people and catching up with colleagues. It’s always interesting to meet people with whom you’ve communicated electronically, and to put a real face and personality with their name.
  • Participant Ensembles: I didn’t participate in any of the late night horn ensemble reading sessions, but from the talk around the symposium they were very popular. Though not a huge area of interest for me at horn conferences – I’m usually trying to conserve chops and energy for other performances – I recognize how fun and engaging they can be for players of all levels. Perhaps more opportunities will be available at future symposia. Unlike some organizations, many IHS members are not professionals or students, but nonetheless have an abiding love and interest in all things horn-related. Finding the right balance among activities and services which benefit various members of the IHS is an ongoing process, and one which bears some frank discussion.
  • Future of the IHS: I was unable to attend an area representative meeting on Thursday morning, but from what I gather the agenda was largely concerned with ongoing efforts to increase membership in the IHS (see my article on why YOU should join the IHS here). I have seen a few posts on social media inquiring about what benefits IHS members enjoy the most, and why non-members have not joined. I sincerely hope that these conversations continue, and yield some productive results. In the end the Horn Society won’t be able to please everyone, but I hope that some changes can be made to ensure that the IHS flourishes for another 50 years. One issue that I believe is common to all the like-instrument societies (International Trombone Association, International Trumpet Guild, etc.) is identity. Is the IHS a professional organization? Is it for amateurs? Is it for students? Is it for teachers? The answers to all of the above questions is a resounding YES, but therein lies the problem. Catering to the interests of all these parties is a monumental task, and there is no magic bullet to increasing membership. Perhaps better marketing and a greater social media presence will help, but this takes dedicated time and effort, and may in fact drive away other members of the society. I’ve always wondered why more professional horn players aren’t members of the IHS, and if there is a way to bridge the gap and encourage them to join. Overall, though, I have confidence in our leadership and trust them to help find a path that promotes the Goals and Aims of the IHS.
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