Five Years of Horn World

anniversaryTomorrow is the fifth anniversary of Horn World. Looking back at my first post from June 2010, I still feel very much the same about the goals and overall direction of the site. As a way to recap and reflect, here are some of the reasons I began blogging (taken from that first post), with some follow-up commentary based on my experiences over the last five years.

  • Communication/Networking: Maintaining this website has been an effective way to network, and I am still surprised – and flattered – by the breadth of readers who choose to visit Horn World.
  • Writing Practice: Though neither the fastest nor most prodigious of writers, I enjoy the act of developing, writing, and revising blog content. For me, writing is both a skill and a creative outlet, just as much as any of my other professional activities. After five years, I hope that I’ve become a better writer, and if not, certainly a more experienced one. I still struggle with beginning and ending articles, and my prose has a tendency to ramble…
  • Development as a Teacher: My effectiveness as a teacher has certainly benefited from my work on this site, mainly because I strive to be as knowledgeable as possible about the trends in my field. I’ll never be an expert in everything, but I can at least hope to know a little about a lot of things. Most of the content here is directed at horn players, and to that end I have devoted the majority of my writing and research time to horn-related topics. However, I also think that my teaching in other areas (music history, music appreciation, etc.), has improved.
  • Share Unique Experiences and Perspectives: For those contemplating a blog or just starting out, my only advice is to start writing, and keep writing! If you don’t feel like you have anything new or original to say, consider this: putting down ideas (original or not) in your own words makes them original. I also think it’s important, especially early on, that you not evaluate blog ideas based on whether you think others will find them interesting, but whether you find them interesting. After some experience – and periodic analysis of your blog stats –  you will have a much better handle on what kinds of things make for good content.
  • Generate New Ideas: Even after 500+ posts on various horn and music-related topics, I still actively think about new ideas, and plan to continue posting content for as long as I am able. I maintain an electronic list of 40 to 50 ideas for blog posts, and periodically update it. Sometimes an idea I had six months ago no longer seems feasible, or requires some tweaking in order to make it practical. As new ideas pop up in my mind I try to avoid too much evaluation – I simply jot down the topic or topics and continue on. I’ve found that when I come back to it – either a week later, or as much as a year later – the good ideas will still resonate with me, and hopefully with my readers.

Well, what’s next? As noted in my Summer Plans, I have some blog ideas in the works, including several recording reviews. I also thought that the five year mark was a good time to make a few changes around the site – nothing major – just a little housekeeping. First, I have decided not to renew the domain. It was problematic from the beginning, and the other two domains for this site, and, will continue to be live. I don’t anticipate any major issues with this change. Second, links to Guide to the Brass Quintet have been removed. When I started that project, the plan was to migrate all of the content from an older website that contained material from my doctoral dissertation. For a number of reasons – including the time commitment necessary to move everything over – I decided not to continue with the migration process. Rather than have only 10% of the material live, and with an undetermined time table for when the rest would be ready, I thought it best just to remove the links. If you are interested in the information contained in my dissertation, please feel free to contact me, or even better, consider borrowing a copy of my document from the International Horn Society’s Thesis Lending Library.

Thoughts on Blogging, Julia’s Horn Page, and Quotes from Arnold Jacobs

Recently the horn world learned that Julia Rose had taken down her very popular blog and compendium, Julia’s Horn Page.  Julia’s site, which I have long been a fan of, was a great resource for all horn and brass players, and I am sorry that it will no longer be available.  Julia’s reasons for discontinuing her site are posted at the URL, and there has been plenty of discussion on the subject via the “Horn People” Facebook group.  The reasons Julia cites are completely valid (in my opinion), and I sympathize with many of them.  At a certain point, blogging can take on a life of its own, and there are some real dangers associated with writing about one’s career or personal life in a public forum. Though I am sad to see her page go, I trust that Julia has made a healthy decision, and thank her for her many contributions to the art of horn playing. I started reading Julia’s page when I was a college student, and spent hours combing through the audition lists, audition announcements, and master class notes she posted regularly. When she added the blog component to her site, I greatly appreciated her straightforward, no nonsense writing style.  It quickly became one of my favorite reads, and I looked forward to her posts.

Her copious master class notes, including several from Arnold Jacobs, were a tremendous resource. Jacobs actually wrote very little about his teaching philosophy, and these paraphrased or directly quoted thoughts from this master pedagogue made for some fascinating reading. In honor of Julia’s page, and as a brief intro to the next installment in the “Friday Review” series, here are some quotes from Arnold Jacobs taken from Also Sprach Arnold Jacobscompiled by Bruce Nelson and published by Polymnia Press in 2006. Check back on Friday for more about this great book, but for now here are some pearls of wisdom from Arnold Jacobs.

  • “You are a product of the challenges you overcome.” (p. 13)
  • “Strength is your enemy; weakness is your friend.” (p. 15)
  • “Fill your mind with sound.” (p. 23)
  • “Think product, not methodology.” (p. 24)
  • “Play music to develop embouchure, not the other way around.” (p. 31)
  • “Keep breaths full and relaxed.” (p. 40)
  • “Establish good breathing habits through exercises away from the horn.” (p. 47)
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