Cannon Music Camp Wrap-Up

Photo by Justin McCrary

Photo by Justin McCrary

I just finished up three weeks of teaching at Cannon Music Camp, held on the campus of Appalachian State University, my undergraduate alma mater. I last taught at Cannon in 2012, and was a camper myself  during the summers of 1995 and 1996. As before, it was a great pleasure to return to the Appalachian campus for a few weeks to work with several high school students. I even got to take a trip down memory lane by performing Bujanovsky’s España on one of the faculty recitals. *I performed that work on my senior recital at Appalachian on the same stage nearly 16 years earlier. My duties there included teaching the horn studio, conducting a twice-weekly horn ensemble, and coaching the orchestra brass in a weekly sectional. The schedule kept me pretty busy for the duration of the camp, but I also found time to visit with family and friends who live just a few minutes away from campus. All in all it was a wonderful “working vacation.” Coming right on the heels of a new music festival, an international conference, and a recording project, this resulted in  several back to back weeks of rehearsals and performances. In short, I’m definitely in need of some down time! But first, here are some summary thoughts about this year’s Cannon Music Camp, based on my experiences working with the horn students there.

  • There are lots of good horn players of all ages out there! My students ranged in age from rising high school freshman to rising college freshman. There was a wide spectrum of experience and ability levels in the studio, and everyone really did play well for where they were in their musical education. What I was most pleased to see was improvement across the studio in just three short weeks.
  • A Few “Musts” for the Serious High School Horn Student While there are lots of things young horn players can be doing to set themselves up for success, in our lessons at camp we kept coming back to a few major points:
    • Study Privately with a Qualified Horn Teacher – The definition of qualified is open to interpretation, but if possible I recommend studying with someone who has at least an undergraduate degree in horn (either music education or music performance). A professional player or college professor is even better, provided that they have space in their studio for high school students.
    • Find and Establish a Daily Routine – One of my first questions to new students, regardless of their level, is what type of daily practice/maintenance routine(s) they use. I’m not looking for a specific book or author to be named – there are many great materials available – but rather an indication that the student practices fundamentals of some kind each day. If not, then I make recommendations based on the student’s goals and current ability. You want to find something that can be realistically practiced most if not every day, and that builds confidence in your current abilities as well as challenges you and encourages growth. For a short list of recommended routines, see here. In short, if you are serious about getting better at the horn, start practicing your fundamentals now.
    • Get a Good (Better) Mouthpiece – One of the easiest upgrades you can make is a better mouthpiece. Not that there is anything wrong with the ubiquitous Holton, Conn, and other products one finds in many high school bands, but for the serious student there are lots of other options available. Consult with a private teacher or simply search the web for recommended horn mouthpieces to get some ideas. This summer I ended up directing students towards Laskey and Houser mouthpieces, primarily the 75G or 75F and the Houser Houghton line.
    • Learn Bass Clef! – This might seem inconsequential in comparison with the above points, but knowing bass clef will really set you apart from a lot of high school players, even very accomplished ones. The reason is pretty simple – good players tend to spend most of their time playing high parts (usually first), and thus spend little time performing or practicing in the low range. In addition, many high school players rarely have the opportunity to play in a horn quartet or horn ensemble – the low parts in these groups use bass clef extensively. If you don’t know bass clef yet, spend a few weeks this summer working it out. You’ll be glad you did! If you don’t know where to start I highly recommend Marvin McCoy’s 46 Progressive Exercises for Low Horn, available as a digital download from McCoy’s Horn Library. 

Teaching at this year’s Cannon Music Camp was a great experience, due largely to efforts of the camp administration and staff. Everything ran very smoothly, making for a great working environment. I hope to teach there again in the future!


Cannon Music Camp Week 3: Lists, Finale Concerts, and Wrapping Up

It’s been a great three weeks, but Cannon Music Camp has come to an end for this summer. It was a pleasure working with the eager and talented students here, and I am grateful for the opportunity. We wrapped things up this week with a master class built around “must have” lists for horn players, i.e. music, equipment, and other items that I think every horn player should know about. In deciding what to present in the last studio class, I thought back on many of the questions that came up over three weeks of lessons. The list at the end of this post attempts to address, at least in part, some of those questions. It is not comprehensive, but is representative of the kinds of materials I use in my teaching. Though there are many, many more wonderful resources out there for horn players and teachers, these are the ones I keep coming back to and freely recommend.

I can’t wrap up this year’s camp without mentioning the numerous finale concerts at the end of the third week. All of the ensembles at Cannon performed very well, presenting exciting and challenging programs. Bravo! I want to extend a special thanks to Dr. Stephen Hopkins, Director of Cannon Music Camp, and Dr. Karen Robertson, Professor of Horn at Appalachian State University, for extending the invitation to teach at this year’s camp. Thank you as well to the counselors and other staff for their tireless efforts to make sure the day to day operations ran smoothly. Finally, I want to thank the horn students for all of their hard work in lessons, ensembles, and numerous other activities. Thank you for inspiring me, and good luck in this upcoming school year! Here’s a picture of the Cannon horn studio. Back row (L to R): James Boldin, Sada Harris, Nicholas Brooks, Chris Klim, Joshua Anderson. Front Row (L to R): Walter Bonar, Copeland Byars, Philip Norris, Raymond Adams.

Equipment, Books, Music, and More!
“Must-Have” Lists for Horn Players: Cannon Music Camp 2012


  • The Art of French Horn Playing, Philip Farkas
  • Collected Thoughts on Teaching and Learning, Creativity and Horn Performance, Douglas Hill
  • Thoughts on Playing the Horn…Well, Frøydis Ree Wekre


  • The Cambridge Companion to Brass Instruments, Trevor Herbert and John Wallace
  • Brass Instruments, Their History and Development, Anthony Baines
  • Dennis Brain: A Life in Music, Stephen J. Gamble and William C. Lynch


  • The Art of Musicianship, Philip Farkas
  • The Inner Game of Tennis, W. Timothy Gallwey
  • Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Performance, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Sheet Music



  • Concerto No. 1 in D, K. 412; Concerto No. 2 in E-flat, K. 417; Concerto No. 3 in E-flat,K 447; Concerto No. 4 in E-flat, K. 495; Concert Rondo; Quintet for horn and strings, K. 407, W.A. Mozart [purchase in original keys, NOT transposed for Horn in F]
  • Concerto No. 1, Op. 11; Concerto No. 2, Richard Strauss
  • First Solos for the Horn Player and Solos for the Horn Player, ed. Mason Jones
  • The Horn Collection, G. Schirmer (3 volumes, with accomp. CD)


  • Horn Player’s Audition Handbook, ed. Arthur LaBar
  • The Orchestral Audition Repertoire For Horn: Comprehensive and Unabridged, ed. David Thompson

Horns (a few recommendations)

  • Yamaha 667, 667V, 668, 668V
  • Conn 10D, 11D, 8D, V8D
  • Hans Hoyer G-10, 6802, 7802
  • Paxman 20, 23, 25
  • Alexander 103
  • Handmade Custom Horns ($$$) include: Rauch, Berg, Sorley, Englebert Schmid, Patterson, Hatch, Medlin, Hill, Lewis, Lewis-Duerk, and more…


  • Laskey, Houser, Moosewood, Stork, Schilke


  • Straight Mutes: Balu, Trumcor, Moosic, Marcus Bonna
  • Stop Mutes: Balu, Alexander, Tom Crown
  • Practice Mutes: Balu, Wallace, Best Brass, Faxx


  • Marcus Bonna, Thompson Edition, Protec, BAGS


  • Hetman Lubricants
  • Leather Specialties (left hand guards)
  • Alexander and Englbert Schmid (left hand supports)



Sheet Music



Cannon Music Camp Week 2: Great Repertoire, More Lessons, a Solo Performance, and a Maintenance Clinic

Week two of Cannon Music Camp has come and gone, and here’s a brief update on some of last week’s activities.

  • Great Repertoire: In preparation for their finale concerts at the end of Week 3, the orchestra, wind ensemble, and symphonic band are working on some great pieces with fun and challenging horn parts. Highlights include a band transcription of the Olympic Fanfare and Theme by John Williams, and the symphonic poem In the Steppes of Central Asia by Borodin. The student brass and woodwind quintets are also preparing movements from two standard works for those ensembles, Victor Ewald’s Brass Quintet No. 1, and August Klughart’s Wind Quintet. One of the most beneficial elements of any summer music camp is the opportunity to see lots of repertoire in a short period of time. For many students, the amount of music they rehearse and perform at a music camp or festival is equal or greater to the amount seen in an entire semester at school.
  • More Lessons: Lessons have been going very well, and I’ve gotten a chance to work with students on some more in depth topics during Week 2. Even though our time at camp has been limited, I’ve been making short practice assignments for the students from week to week. These often involve working on a specific technical exercise, all or part of an etude or solo, or simply making sure to warm up every day. Even in this short amount of time I can already hear improvement in everyone’s playing – bravo!
  • Solo Performance: On Tuesday I performed on the second of two faculty showcase recitals, playing Eric Ruske’s arrangement of Arban’s Fantasy and Variations on the Carnival of Venice. Kudos to pianist Aaron Ames for putting together the accompaniment in a very short amount of rehearsal time. I’ve been working on this technically challenging piece periodically over the last four years or so, and finally decided to program it on a public recital. Overall the performance went well – it is an impressive sounding work, and will really push your multiple tonguing, flexibility, and all around dexterity on the instrument. Though originally intended for solo cornet, it can be done on the horn, and has been recorded by Eric Ruske and Jacek Muzyk.
  • Maintenance Clinic: Last Monday’s master class focused on the topic of basic horn maintenance and repair. Even beginning horn players can be taught how to oil valves, grease slides, and restring rotors, and it’s never too early to start in my opinion. We discussed several ways to keep a horn in good working condition, and I put together the following maintenance schedule for the students to use as a reference. (Maintenance Schedule) For another take on this topic be sure to read this article by brass repair technician Dave Weiner.

Here are some other general maintenance tips:

  1. Keep an emergency repair kit in your case at all times containing: screwdriver(s), valve oil, slide grease, rubber bands (to temporarily repair a broken valve spring), and precut and tied lengths of valve string.
  2. Have any major dents in your horn immediately repaired by a qualified technician.  The smaller the tubing, the greater the effect a dent will have on the playing characteristics of the horn.  (ex. leadpipe)
  3.  Depending on the way your skin reacts with the metal of your horn, you may need to wipe clean any fingerprints after playing with a soft cloth and/or purchase a leather/neoprene handguard.
  4. When in doubt, leave any repairs (except oiling and restringing) to a PROFESSIONAL.  Trying to disassemble valves or remove stuck slides/mouthpieces without the proper training and equipment will only result in bigger repair bills.  Regular maintenance will help postpone or prevent any major repairs to your horn.

There are also a number of helpful “how to” videos on the internet, including this collection I put together a few years back. It was a busy but extremely fun week, and I’m excited about Week 3!

Cannon Music Camp Week 1: Lessons, Concerts, and More

Cannon Music Camp at Appalachian State University got off to a busy start during its first week with plenty of lessons, master classes, and a great  concert on Sunday featuring several student ensembles (pictured at left is the Wind Ensemble horn section during rehearsal on the first day). All of the students have now had one lesson and a master class with me, so I have a better idea of who everyone is, and where they are in their musical development. During the first lesson I always ask students lots of questions, including what their short and long term goals are. Some of the goals students shared with me for their time at camp included working on tone, range, endurance, lip trills,and All-State audition repertoire.

In addition to these goals I also encouraged all of the students to get into a regular warm-up/practice routine, even if only for 30 minutes or so per day during their busy schedules at camp. Taking care of your embouchure is really important during times of heavy playing, and a brief warm-up and maintenance period each day – along with a warm-down at the end of the day – will help keep everything working properly. All of the lessons so far have focused to some degree on fundamentals, as well as covering etudes, solo repertoire, chamber music, and large ensemble music. We’ve also been working a lot out of David Vining’s Long Tone Duets, which in addition to being great for warming up together at the beginning of lessons is excellent for improving intonation, tone quality, and deep breathing. All of my students at camp have expressed a desire to keep playing the horn beyond high school, and many of them want to major in music. For those students who want to major in music, especially the rising juniors and seniors, I emphasized the importance of taking regular private lessons, and getting serious about practicing scales and etudes, not just solos and audition music. During our first master class together I played briefly for the students, which generated some great questions about warming up and practice habits in general. After discussing some possible warm-up routines, I shared my list of recommended horn websites – at the top of the list were, International Horn Society, (now a part of the IHS site),, and I also took the opportunity to mention my own blog and YouTube channel! In this week’s master class we’ll talk about basic instrument repair and maintenance, and some recommended recordings for horn players.

The campers ended a busy first week with a Kaleidoscope concert featuring brief selections by several ensembles. Bravo to all of the groups who performed, and a special congratulations to the horn players in the Wind Ensemble, Honors Brass Quintet, and Honors Woodwind Quintet. Keep up the good work! As we begin Week 2 I’m looking forward to working with everyone again in lessons and hearing some more great performances.

Cannon Music Camp

For the next three weeks I’ll be teaching horn at Cannon Music Camp, on the campus of my undergraduate Alma mater, Appalachian State University. Here’s a brief description of the camp from their Facebook page.

Since 1969, Cannon Music Camp has offered the most comprehensive course of musical instruction in the Southeast, with intensive college preparatory work in ensemble performance, one-on-one instruction, and music theory.

It’s a wonderful program, serving band, orchestral, choral, and piano students. This was the first music camp I ever attended, and I’m honored to be on the faculty this summer. There are eight horn students – including one from Louisiana – and they are all eager and talented. I’ll be getting to know them better in our weekly lessons and master classes, and will be posting some weekly updates here about the various horn-related and other activities during camp. One thing I’ve been thinking about lately is what topics to cover in the weekly master class. Since time is limited, there are some things we won’t have time to do, but we will definitely be talking about warm-ups/fundamentals, instrument maintenance, and other basic info, as well as things like recommended recordings and websites. I’m not living on campus during camp because both my parents and my wife’s parents live within an easy driving distance, but I plan to attend as many concerts and other camp events as my schedule allows. One last thing worth mentioning is that I’m teaching in my former horn teacher’s studio, which along with bringing back some great memories has the very nice view shown to the left.

Welcome Back and 2012 Preview

After a couple of weeks off, it’s time to get back in gear for the spring semester. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season – I know I did! Over the break I got some much needed rest, and as the new year approached my thoughts turned towards the various activities coming up for me in 2012. For my first post of this year I thought I’d give a brief overview for a few of these activities, many of which I’ll be writing about in more detail in the future.

  • Chamber Music Galore: February will be a very busy and exciting month for chamber music, as I’ll be collaborating with my colleagues on three faculty recitals. The first is a concert of music by Eric Ewazen, where we’ll perform his Ballade, Pastorale and Dance for flute, horn, and piano. It’s a great piece, and is really becoming well known in the literature. For the second concert I’ll be joining a member of our voice faculty for Vitaly Bujanovsky’s Evening Songs for soprano and horn. Though not very well known, this is a wonderful recital piece. If you haven’t heard of it, check out this fine performance by Sofia Kapetanakou and Antonis Lagos.
    To close out the month Black Bayou Brass will present our annual faculty recital. This promises to be an exciting program as well, with the big piece on the concert being Anthony Plog’s Triple Concerto. Later this year Black Bayou Brass will also be performing several more concerts – some of them at home, and some in far away places! More on that to come.
  • Orchestra Concerts: In addition to lots of chamber music, there is also plenty of orchestral playing to go around. Program highlights this spring are Pines of Rome by Respighi and Death and Transfiguration by Richard Strauss.
  • 44th International Horn Symposium: This year’s symposium will be held at The University of North Texas in Denton, and I’m looking forward to hearing some great horn playing as well as catching up with several friends and colleagues. For my part I’ll be appearing as a contributing artist, performing Jan Koetsier‘s Sonata for Horn and Harp with Jaymee Haefner, harp professor at UNT. Koetsier’s music is gradually becoming known in the U.S., and he has several very fine works for horn. Later this year I’ll also be recording the sonata along with other works by Koetsier for a forthcoming CD project.
  • Blogging: I’ve got several drafts for posts in progress, so it’s just a matter of getting to them over the next few months. One blogging project I’m particularly excited about is a weekly series reviewing recent publications and recordings.
  • Summer Teaching: This year I’ll be on the faculty of Cannon Music Camp in Boone, NC. This three-week high school music camp is held on the campus of Appalachian State University, my alma mater. I attended CMC during my early high school years, and I have very fond memories of the time I spent there. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to being on the faculty.

Though I’m sure 2012 will bring with it new challenges (i.e. opportunities), I look forward to this year with optimism and enthusiasm – I hope you do too!

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