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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IHS 50 Report, Part 3

*This is the third part of a series on the 50th International Horn Symposium. Follow these links to read Part 1 and Part 2.

By the time you read this post, I will be returning home from the 50th International Horn Symposium in Muncie, Indiana. For a variety of reasons, I chose not to stay for the entire symposium this year, but have thoroughly enjoyed my time here. Bravo and a huge THANK YOU to Professor Gene Berger and the students and staff at Ball State University for making this week possible. From my perspective, all of the many events and other activities have been well organized and have run smoothly – not an easy feat! As I write this, I am listening via Facebook live to an exciting performance by Leelanee Sterrett and Tomoko Kanamaru on the Wednesday evening concert. Not to sound like too much of an old fogey here, but I knew Ms. Sterrett when she was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, while I was working on a doctorate there. At the time she was already a tremendous horn player, and has since gone on to perform at the highest levels. Here is the program:

Kate Soper, Into that World Inverted
(b. 1981)
Jane Vignery, Sonata for Horn and Piano, Op. 7
(1913-1974)
Ruth Gipps, Sonatina for Horn and Piano, Op. 56
(1921-1999)
Leelanee Sterrett, horn Tomoko Kanamaru, piano

After intermission, the second half will feature an All-Star Horn Big Band, but since I will be departing quite early in the morning I will be turning in for the night.

Working backwards from the final concert of the day, our 4:00 p.m. brass trio performance went very well, and as always it was a pleasure to make music with my colleagues. In my experience, audiences respond well to brass trio music. There is a surprising amount of variety in the repertoire, with some really fine original works by established and emerging composers. If you are looking for something different to program on an upcoming recital, consider putting together a trio of your own.

Earlier in the day I attended one of the IHS 50 special sessions, this one on “Horn-Making over the past 50 Years.” The speakers included Richard Bentson, presider, and Panelists Robert Osmun, Englebert Schmid, Chuck Ward, Philipp Alexander, Johnny Woody, and Dan Rauch. The panel encompassed a wide range of experiences and perspectives, including highly-skilled repairmen, custom makers, consultants, and everything in between. It was a fascinating lecture, with each panelist presenting a brief overview of their thoughts on the last 50 years of horn making. There were of course some differing opinions, but a few of the commonalities are listed below:

  • For custom (boutique) horn makers, the materials and methods of building horns have evolved significantly over the last half-century, with the trend being towards greater precision and customization to the individual player. Examples of this include greater variety of alloys (brass, red brass, nickel silver, etc.), and the use of plastics and other composites such as carbon fiber. However, as the horn playing community as a whole tends to be quite traditional, the standard double horn in F and B-flat has remained the most popular choice for a majority of players. *Several panelists did note the increasing presence (and availability) of triple and descant horns, though.
  • For large scale factory-made horns, quality has often suffered when the parent company has tried to cut costs without consideration of the effects on their instruments. One panelist even mentioned a meeting in which the idea of using glue to hold horns together was offered as a possible way to cut costs (thankfully the idea was later abandoned). One panelist also pointed out that while factory-made horns such as the Conn 8D were once the instruments of choice for professionals, those days have largely come and gone. Most professionals now have their pick of several brands of high end custom made instruments, while factory horns largely cater to the student market.

I left this session a bit early to make it to a 1:00 p.m. presentation by Dr. Stacie Mickens, “Positive Practice Strategies.” I have seen Dr. Mickens give this presentation a few times before, and it keeps getting better and better. Drawing on two books, The Perfect Wrong Note by William Westney, and Practicing for Artistic Success by Burton Kaplan, she offered some wonderful tips on how to structure practice sessions so that we actually make progress rather than feeling frustrated. If you get the chance to hear her give this presentation or to take a lesson with her I highly recommend it!

As usual, I’ll be sharing some summary thoughts about the symposium, but it will take me a few days to process everything and put together something coherent. Check back soon to read more…

IHS 50 Report, Part 2

IMG_20180731_212023752Today was the second full day of the 50th International Horn Symposium (Read my report on Day 1 here). My schedule consisted of attending parts of several concerts and presentations, connecting and reconnecting with a few colleagues, rehearsing with my brass trio for our performance tomorrow, and buying some new music and recordings.

I started the day with a presentation by musical legend David Amram called “Fundamentals of Jazz, Blues in F” Over the years I’ve performed his Blues and Variations for Monk several times, and have also read one of his books, Vibrations. Amram is a unique and multifaceted personality, and his session turned out to be much more than just an introduction to jazz. (I also got to hear Douglas Hill play some jazz bass.)  Mr. Amram shared some inspiring words about what it means to be a musician, and to attend the “University of Hang-out-ology.” I took this to mean that one of the best ways to grow as a musician (and person) is to surround yourself with people who challenge and inspire you, and to try to learn everything you can from them – excellent advice!

Next came a visit to a few exhibitor tables to buy some sheet music, including Gina Gillie’s new Sonata for Horn, commissioned and recorded by Steven Cohen on his new album, Cruise Control. I also found a chamber work that’s been on my to-do list for a while, Simon Sargon’s “Huntsman, What Quarry?” for soprano, horn, and piano. Lastly, I picked up a copy of “Twenty Difficult Etudes for the Horn’s Middle Register” by Daniel Grabois. Looking forward to working on this new repertoire in the future.

After lunch I checked out part of the 1:00 p.m. concert, which included a preview performance of William Bolcom’s new Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano (2017), which was commissioned by Steven Gross. It was a really interesting work, not necessarily technically flashy, but with some very interesting timbres and melodies. Definitely one to keep your eye out for when it’s published.

The later afternoon consisted of rehearsing with my low brass trio for a repeat performance of the program we did at the International Trombone Festival a few weeks ago. Rehearsal went well, and we are ready for our performance on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. Afterwards I ate dinner with two colleagues, Eli Epstein and Stacie Mickens. Both are fantastic horn players and teachers, and I’m very glad to have spent some time talking with them over dinner.

The 7:30 p.m. concert was outstanding, featuring international soloist Frank Lloyd and Josh Williams, First Prize Winner in the Professional Division of the 2017 International Horn Competition of America. Their program consisted of all 20th and 21st-century works, with several that included jazz influences. Here’s a partial list of the repertoire.

David Amram, Blues and Variations for Monk for unaccompanied horn
Richard Bissill, Sic Itur Ad Astra for horn and piano
Richard Bissill, Song of a New World for horn and piano
Frank Lloyd, horn, David Mamedov, piano
-Intermission-
Lawrence Lowe, Sonata No. 1 for horn and piano (III. Caccia)
Margaret Brouwer, SCHerZOid for solo horn
Alec Wilder, Suite for horn and piano
Amir Zaheri, Secret Winter for horn and piano
Anthony DiLorenzo, The Phoenix Sonata for horn and piano
Joshua Williams, horn, Kathia Bonna, piano

 

Mr. Lloyd’s playing was dazzling as usual, though he is now performing on an Alexander horn instead of an Engelbert Schmid. There were also several additions to his program: “Raptor Music,” composed for him by Douglas Hill, a virtuosic unaccompanied work featuring lots of extended techniques, and an “F Blues” from 15 Low Horn Etudes by Ricardo Matosinhos. Mr. Williams was equally stunning in his performance, ending with the epic Phoenix Sonata by Anthony DiLorenzo. This work is getting performed more and more, and it’s easy to hear why. Though challenging, it is an effective and engaging piece. One note about my experience of tonight’s concert is that I was able to watch the second half from my hotel room (while working on some other work-related tasks), as the IHS has been streaming Featured Artist concerts on Facebook live. I stumbled across this by accident, and I must have missed any publicity announcing it. It’s a fantastic service that I hope will continue at future symposia. Even if you can’t be here in Muncie, tune in for the 7:30 p.m. concerts this week where ever you are!

 

 

IHS 50 Report, Part 1

For the next few days, much of the horn world can be found in Muncie, Indiana for the 50th International Horn Symposium, hosted by Gene Berger at Ball State University. The theme of this year’s symposium is “The Golden History of Horn,” and throughout the week there will be several special events commemorating the last 50 years of symposia. IHS 50 got off to a rousing start this morning at the 10:00 a.m. opening concert, featuring members of the IHS Advisory Council and friends. Here’s the program from the opening concert (the full symposium program can be found online here)

Howard Buss,“Fanfare for a Golden Era” for 15 horns *World Premiere
Christopher Wiggins, Suite # 5 for Eight horns op. 169 *World Premiere
Richard Strauss/arr. Peter Damm, Eine (kleine) Alpensinfonie op. 64 for 15 horns, organ and glockenspiel
The Buss and Wiggins premieres were exciting, but the star of this program was of course Peter Damm’s arrangement of the Strauss. Despite being a fraction of the length of the full orchestral work, Damm’s adaptation captured all of the big horn moments from Strauss’s mammoth tone poem, including the off-stage brass. This piece is unpublished, and as such is seldom performed. It was truly a memorable event, see above for a photo of the ensemble just after the performance. I should also add that Ball State University has gorgeous music facilities, and a very beautiful campus overall. Most of the performances, lectures, and exhibits are located within a short walk of each other.
After a quick lunch I got set up for my presentation, Brass Trio Repertoire: Beyond Poulenc, based on an article I published in the 2015 Horn Call. It went very well, and the audience seemed quite interested in finding out more about original music for brass trio. The highlight for me was getting to catch up with my former teacher, Douglas Hill, who attended the presentation.
Next, I had a rehearsal with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Horn Choir, Directed by Dr. Catherine Roche-Wallace. It was an honor to perform with them as part of the prelude music for the evening concert. Their program was as follows:
Thomas Jöstlein, Campbell Fanfare
Engelbert Humperdinck, Prelude-Chorale from “Hansel und Gretel” arr. Jeffery Kirschen
James Naigus, Halcyon
Percy Grainger, Selections from Lincolnshire Posy, arr. Dick Meyer
Eric Ewazen, Grand Canyon Octet (I. Allegro maestoso)
Bravo to Dr. Roche-Wallace and her students on a great performance, and thanks for asking me to play!
After the rehearsal I attended a bit of the 4:00 p.m. concert. I had to leave early to grab some dinner before the 6:15 p.m. Prelude performance, but had a chance to hear some fantastic playing by Katie Johnson-Webb from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (Sonatas by Trygve Madsen and Wolfgang Plagge) and Jonathan Gannon from Florida A&M University (Earth Songs by Laurence Lowe).
The evening concert featured Elizabeth Freimuth, Principal Horn of the Cincinnati Symphony, and Robert Danforth, Principal Horn of the Indianapolis Symphony. The program included frequently performed works like the Villanelle by Paul Dukas, and some less frequently-performed works like Kurt Atterberg’s Concerto, Op. 28 and Franz Anton Rossler’s Concerto in Eb. I have heard both of these pieces in the past, but it has been a while, and hearing these virtuoso performers has inspired me to give them a second look. The Rossler sounds a little like Mozart, as he was a direct contemporary, but with more ornamentation. The Atterberg is a true tour de force, and Elizabeth Freimuth’s performance  was especially noteworthy. One last word about this concert, and a general theme for horn conferences and symposia, is that there are lots of really different (but equally valid) solo horn sounds out there. Tonight’s soloists sounded very different from each other, but they both played beautifully. For those who might be interested, based on what I could see from the audience Freimuth performed on a Knopf-style brass horn, and Danforth performed on (I believe) a silver Schmidt-style horn. It was a fantastic program, but being worn out from my all-day drive to Muncie the day before, I left after intermission to get a head start on some rest.
That’s all for this report. Check back soon for more!
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