IHS 48 Final Thoughts

IMG_20160618_154254072_HDRNow that the 48th International Horn Symposium is officially over, I have a few parting thoughts regarding the world’s largest annual gathering of horn players. First, a huge Thank You and congratulations to host Alex Shuhan and all the students, faculty, staff, and volunteers in the Ithaca College School of Music for putting together a fantastic week of events. Additional thanks should go to Nancy Joy, International Symposium Coordinator, and Rose French, Symposium Exhibits Coordinator, as well as the IHS Officers and Advisory Council. Horn players generally work well together as a team, and the IHS 48 team was no exception – Bravo! Here are a few more summary comments to wrap up this series on the symposium. (Feel free to read the entire series, beginning with Report No. 1)

Symposium Theme: The theme of IHS 48 was “The Natural Beauty of the Horn,” and this was honored in many performances, lectures, and other events throughout the week. There were outdoor Alphorn jam sessions, lectures on the Baroque horn and other historical topics, and some stunning natural horn playing (Pip Eastop, Jeffrey Snedeker, and others), to name just a few. The gorgeous natural scenery and tree-filled landscape on the Ithaca College campus created an almost pastoral backdrop.

Exhibits and Layout: As mentioned in an earlier report, all of the events for IHS 48 were located in two buildings: the Campus Center (exhibits) and Whalen Center for Music (performances and lectures). Navigation between the two buildings was very simple, but the sprawling layout of the Campus Center caused some initial confusion in locating all of the exhibitors. However, numerous signs posted by symposium staff helped point the way. By the end of the first day or so I had a pretty good grasp on where things were located – others were much quicker in figuring things out! As expected, all of the best instruments, equipment, and accessories were on display throughout the week. While sheet music and books were represented, my personal choice would have been to see a few more publishers and dealers in attendance. Perhaps digital downloads and the general availability of these materials online is having an effect? Difficult to know based on this one event.

Etiquette (Concert Hall and Exhibit Rooms): I am going to approach this topic delicately because one of the great things about the IHS symposium is that it brings together horn players from a wide variety of backgrounds, abilities, and interests. I am in complete support of this, and feel that the symposium experience should be as inclusive as possible. During these types of conferences there are multiple events going on simultaneously, and it is not unusual for attendees to visit one concert or lecture for a time and then sneak out to catch part of another one (or two). I have done this myself on numerous occasions, and it is generally acceptable so long as one enters or exits the hall during applause, not during a performance or between movements. For whatever reason, I noticed this happening quite a bit during the week, and it must have been a frequent enough occurrence for the symposium staff to notice because some signs were posted asking audience members to enter only during applause or to use a less obtrusive entrance into the hall.

The second part of this topic concerns Exhibit Room etiquette. I’ve not seen too much written about this, but there are a few rules to observe to ensure an enjoyable experience for all. I’ve listed them below in the form of a “Do” list. The “Don’ts” can be easily extrapolated, I think!

  • Ask permission to try a horn, especially if it is a rare or expensive model. The exhibitors know you are there to try out instruments, but if time permits I think it’s worth the professional courtesy to ask before just picking them up. If the dealer is otherwise occupied, then it probably isn’t that big of an issue. Be sure to thank them after you’ve tried a horn. They went to a lot of trouble and expense to bring those instruments there.
  • Empty the horn before and after you’ve played on it.
  • Ask questions if you don’t know something. European or American taper? What key does this stand in? What’s the compression rating on these valves? Etc., etc. In my experience exhibitors are more than happy to answer any questions you have about their horns.
  • Be mindful of your surroundings. When playing, direct your bell away from others if at all possible.
  • Play intelligently. Play what you think is necessary to test out the capabilities of the horn, as well as have some fun. However, if you need to test out multiple fortissimo high Cs, then you should probably ask the dealer if you can take the horn to a practice room or a slightly more secluded area for more extensive playing.
  • Check your ego at the door. Some of the finest performers in the world as well as students and occasional or comeback players might all be in the exhibit hall at the same time. There is a place for everyone at an IHS symposium, so just relax and enjoy getting to check out lots of different instruments and accessories!

World Premieres: I already mentioned that IHS48 was a fantastic symposium for new music. The final total according to the program book was 14 World Premieres, although I suspect a few other works might also have been premieres but weren’t indicated. Many performers included both new and standard works on their programs, which made for well balanced concerts.

Stuff I Bought: I’m not really in the market for a new horn, but I did find a few useful items that might be of interest. Here’s a brief description of each.

  • Hard Shell Marcus Bonna Mute Case: This is a brand new product from one of the leaders in horn IMG_20160617_085952264_HDRcases, and I am thankful to see it available. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of having a mute partially crushed during air travel, even though it was wrapped in several layers of clothing and inside a hard shell suitcase. Although very happy with my Dampfer Mitt bag, I’ve been looking for something a bit more protective. Bonna’s design is similar to other mute bags, but incorporates the rigid shell used in his horn cases. I did not have my mute with me, but Mr. Bonna was kind enough to bring the case to another exhibit room to let me try it out on the same model. It was a perfect fit, and I am looking forward to using the new case. One note is that some mutes won’t fit in this particular case, although Mr. Bonna told me that he is planning to make them in different sizes in the future. If you have any questions I recommend contacting either Marcus Bonna or Ken Pope, who will probably be selling them soon on his website.
  • Balu/Maelstrom Mouthpiece: Maelstrom is one of the newer names in horn mouthpieces, but I’ve already heard lots of good things about them. Ion Balu of BaluMusik has collaborated with Maelstrom to create his own line of mouthpieces, and I ended up buying one of the brass underparts at this symposium. I’m looking forward to trying this one out with my Houser rim, and will report once I’ve had a chance to play on it some more.

All in all, IHS 48 was a great event, and I’m glad (as always) that I was able to attend. If you’ve never attended an IHS Symposium, consider making plans to attend the next one on June 26-30, 2017 in Natal, Brazil.


IHS 48 Report No. 5

This post is the fifth in a series of brief summaries regarding the 48th International Horn Symposium. Here are links to the previous reports: No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4.

My morning presentation went very well, and I am grateful to Jeff Nelsen and Randall Faust for stopping by! Be on the lookout for more updates about Solo Training for Horn.

After lunch I heard some lovely playing by Dr. Katie Johnson, who performed the Franz Strauss Nocturno, Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel (which works quite well on horn), and Joseph Rheinberger’s Sonata for Horn and Piano. The concert concluded with a solid performance by Dr. Amy Laursen and Dr. Heather Thayer of the Concerto for Two Horns by Ferdinand Ries. If you are familiar with the solo horn sonata of Ries, the style in this concerto is similiar, but with considerably more “fireworks” in both horn parts.

I spent the better part of the next hour trying out several different horns in the exhibit rooms. This is an area that I don’t always get to explore at horn conferences, but I made a conscientious effort this year to play some horns for more than just a few seconds. More on exhibit room etiquette in my next post! For now, here is the list of horns I tried.

First let me say that these are ALL good horns, with a range of prices from just over $4,000 to close to $10,000. Furthermore, comparing a mid-level horn to a higher priced custom instrument isn’t really a fair comparison. In terms of automobiles, think of comparing a Honda to a Mercedes. Much depends on your personal preferences as a player, and of course your budget. That being said, in the limited testing of the above instruments my favorites were, in no particular order, the Briz Custom, Patterson Custom, and a tie between the Yamaha 671 and Yamaha 871. If I were serious about purchasing any of the above models, I would definitely give them a more extensive testing. What did I play to test these horns? Nothing fancy: scales, arpeggios, harmonic series slurs, other flexibility patterns, perfect 5ths in several keys. For some tips on testing horns, see this article by John Ericson at Horn Matters. To sum it up, there are lots of fine instruments out there from a variety of makers in the $4K to $10K range.

From the exhibit rooms I went to a lecture by my Louisiana colleague Dr. Catherine Roche-Wallace. Titled “Under Pressure: Solutions for Struggles in the High Range,” her presentation provided some practical tips for success in the high range, as well as a discussion of how to apply Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences to horn pedagogy.

The final event of the day and of my time at IHS 48 (the symposium ends tomorrow) was an eclectic concert featuring Mexican music for horn and piano, performed by Mauricio Soto, and a new brass trio by Tyler Ogilvie, (Lori Roy, horn). Since I spend a good bit of time performing in a brass trio, this performance was especially interesting to me. Titled Realm’s End, this three movement work was funded in part by the IHS Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Fund. The piece was challenging at times, but still very accessible. The addition of a Melodica part performed by the trumpet player during the second movement was a nice touch, and created a unique texture.

IMG_20160617_085952264_HDRThis brings my series of reports on IHS 48 to close. It’s been a fantastic week of music making and camaraderie, definitely one for the books. In the next few days I’ll post my summary comments, including a bit more about the gear I purchased (see photo).

IHS 48 Report No. 4

This post is the fourth in a series of brief summaries regarding the 48th International Horn Symposium. You can read the first one here, the second one here, and the third one here.

Today I got to hear lots of brass chamber music, first from the Gaudete Brass in a concert featuring  original music for brass quintet. According to their website, the Gaudete (gow-day-tay) Brass is committed to “presenting serious brass chamber music through compelling concerts, commissioning new works and adventurous recordings.” They certainly lived up to their mission in today’s concert, performing these works:

  • Entrance (2003) David Sampson
  • Lighthouse Suite (2014) Daniel Baldwin
  • Still (2013) David Sampson
  • Brass Quintet (2009) Shafer Mahoney

The group sounded very good, with a polished and professional stage presence.

Next I attended a master class by Eli Epstein, “Cultivating One’s Own Voice on the Horn.” In this class he listened to three students perform various works (Rachmaninov, Vocalise; Massenet, Meditation from Thais; Schumann, Adagio and Allegro) and helped them tap into their own emotions to deliver more convincing and authentic performances. For more on this technique (and many more insights!) read his book, Horn Playing from the Inside Out.

After the master class it was time for some more new music. Jeffrey Snedeker gave an impressive performance of Dana Wilson’s Musings for Horn and Piano. I’ve known about Wilson’s music for quite a while, but have not yet performed any of it. After hearing many of his works at this symposium I am definitely planning to perform some in the future. Gene Berger then performed the World Premiere of Christoph Nils Thompson‘s Sonata for Horn and Piano. This has been a great symposium for new music, with ten world premieres thus far. The concert closed with a performance by the Washburn University Faculty Brass Quintet (Dr. Matthew Haislip, horn) of Haislip’s Brass Quintet No. 1 in D Major.

I stayed in the same concert hall for a bit of the next recital, but left about half way through to grab dinner and have some down time before the evening concert. Bravo to Corbin Wagner for his very fine performance of the Christoph Förster Concerto (First Movement) and Bozza’s Sur Les Cimes. On a related note, today I purchased a copy of his book, The How-to Horn Book, and his recording of music for soprano, horn, and piano. More about these in a future post.

I only attended the first half of this evening’s concert, opting instead for an earlier night to rest up for my presentation tomorrow. However, the part I heard was very unique, beginning with some entertaining pre-concert music by the Cornua Irae Quartet. Their blend of humor and solid horn playing was very enjoyable. The concert opened with impeccable playing by Gail Williams on David Gwilt’s Sonatina for Horn and Piano, followed by several works performed by Nobuaki Fukukawa, Principal Horn of the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo. His program included a U.S. premiere and two world premieres, chief among them being a new work by Eric Ewazen. His Nocturne and Toccata was commissioned by the Japan Horn Society for their 2016 competition, and is sure to become a popular piece in the repertoire. If I had to sum up Fukukawa’s playing in one word it would be “stunning.” His boundless technique is balanced by mature phrasing and finesse. Of the works he played, the Ewazen is probably the most approachable, though it was also quite challenging.

Coming up tomorrow, I have my Solo Training for Horn Presentation and a few more performances and clinics to see. It will probably be my last full day at the symposium, as I am planning to spend Saturday sight-seeing with my relatives. There is some gorgeous natural scenery in Ithaca, and I want to get some more pictures! Here are a couple of shots taken very quickly on campus. The first is looking down from the music building across the Ithaca campus, the second is a similar view, but at sunset, and the third is a deer I saw on campus during my walk back from a concert.

IMG_20160614_122539640 IMG_20160614_213508196IMG_20160616_204854606




IHS 48 Report No. 3

This post is the third in a series of brief summaries regarding the 48th International Horn Symposium. You can read the first one here, and the second one here.

Today I attended a mix of lectures and performances. First was a concert featuring the music of Daniel Baldwin. Baldwin’s music is tuneful, and very fun to perform. Here is a condensed version of the program, with instrumentation and the names of the horn players. For full information, you can view the online program book, page 18.

  • KUI Awakened (Solo Horn; Philip Kassell)
  • Dreams of the White Tiger (Woodwind Quintet; Clare Tuxill McKenney)
  • Landscapes (Horn, Clarinet, Bassoon, Piano; Erin Futterer)
  • Big Sky Country (Horn Ensemble)
  • Firefall (Horn Ensemble)

Bravo to all of the performers on this concert! If you don’t know Daniel Baldwin’s music, it is well worth a look and listen. *I had to step out of the concert early, and missed the last two horn ensemble works. Immediately following this performance I spent some much needed time in the practice room, preparing for my presentation on Friday.

Next I attended a very special presentation, “MRI Horn, The Inside Story: Pedagogy Informed by Science,” by Eli Epstein and Dr Peter Iltis. There was way too much information in this presentation to summarize here, but you can view this video conversation between Sarah Willis and Peter Iltis for an overview of how this powerful technology can improve our understanding of horn playing. The presentation began by reviewing some of the information presented at IHS47 in Los Angeles, and continued with some new discoveries regarding tongue position, and the role of the glottis in brass playing.

The afternoon performance included both new and old, with Dr. Jeffrey Snedeker performing the Nikolas von Krufft Sonata on natural horn, Dr. Erica Tyner Godrian performing a new solo horn work titled “across the plains, to Devils Tower” by Mack LaMont, and Dr. Margaret Tung performing the World Premiere of John Cheetham’s Sonata for Horn and Piano. All of the performances were very solid, and I especially enjoyed the Cheetham. Anyone who has played in a brass quintet knows Cheetham’s Scherzo, and think this new work for horn will get played quite a bit.

ihs 49The next update isn’t directly related to today’s events, but rather to the symposium as a whole. The dates and location of the next symposium have been announced in the program book. The 49th International Horn Symposium will be held June 26-30, 2017 at the Federal University of Rio Grande de Norte in Natal, Brazil, and the host is Radegundis Tavares.

This evening’s concert included some really spectacular playing: first by Bruno Schneider and Leslie Norton, followed by William VerMeulen on the second half. One notable thing about the program is that I had never heard any of the pieces before. All of the compositions made for interesting and enjoyable listening, but standouts for me were the Gothic Concerto by Kerry Turner (performed by Leslie Norton), and the Horn Sonata No. 1 by Christopher Caliendo (performed by William VerMeulen). I enjoyed hearing all three of these world class players, each with a very distinctive sound and approach to the instrument. It’s difficult for me to put into words, but they all had something special to offer in terms of their sound quality, beyond just “getting the notes.” I plan to think about this a bit more during the rest of the week, and maybe will be able to put a finer point on it in my summary comments.


IHS 48 Report No. 2

This post is the second in a series of brief summaries regarding the 48th International Horn Symposium. You can read the first one here.

The first event I attended this morning was a very informative lecture by Dr. Joseph Falvey entitled “Baroque Horn Performance Techniques: Discussion and Recording Comparison.” The presentation was filled with lots of interesting historical information, but the central point of the talk was that when horn players perform Baroque music on a period instrument, they have three possible options when it comes to the out of tune 11th and 13th harmonics: “lipping” notes into place, hand stopping, and nodal venting. Dr. Falvey presenting convincing arguments for all three techniques, along with audio samples.

ihs48pictureNext up was our performance of Gina Gillie’s To the Seasons for soprano, horn, and piano. I’ve written about this work before, but in short it is a substantial composition that is very rewarding to perform. Our performance was well received, and I want to thank my colleagues in Trio Mélange (Dr. Claire Vangelisti, soprano, and Dr. Richard Seiler, piano – see picture at right) for making the trip to Ithaca to perform with me. We shared the recital with Dr. Abigail Pack and Wallace Easter, who played a rousing rendition of the Haydn Concerto for Two Horns in E-flat.

Following this concert I attended another lecture, given by Dr. Brent Shires. The title of his presentation was “Ralph Hermann: Pioneer Composer for Solo Horn and Band.” Dr. Shires provided some background information about Hermann’s Concerto for Horn and Band, and then performed the entire concerto with piano reduction. It was a fantastic performance, and this was the first time I’ve ever heard the piece live. For more information about the Hermann concerto and other solo horn works with band, make sure to visit Dr. Shires’s website, http://www.horn-and-band.info/  I also have a brief post about the work with some audio samples here.

After this presentation I attended a very moving tribute to Dr. Virginia Thompson (1956-2015), featuring a new piece by Andrew Boysen which was commissioned in her honor. Titled “Virginia Songs,” the work was performed by a large horn ensemble consisting of members of the commissioning consortium, former students of Dr. Thompson, and current students at West Virginia University, where she taught for many years. It’s a very effective piece, combining traditional melodies and harmonies with extended techniques.

I spent a few minutes in the exhibit rooms this afternoon, and tried out a few of Yamaha’s new horns, the 671 and 871. My initial impressions were quite good. Both horns are very well balanced and even across the range. I have to say though that based on the two horns I tried, my preference was for the less expensive 671. Of course, more thorough playing on both models would be necessary to come to any firm conclusions. If you have the opportunity, try out both horns for yourself. I have more to say on the exhibits, and will do that in a final summary post at the conclusion of IHS 48.

The final event for me today was the evening concert, featuring Frank Lloyd, Pip Eastop, Leslie Norton, and Jeff Nelsen. I was running a bit late, and missed Frank Lloyd’s performance of Messiaen’s Appel Interstellaire, but heard the rest of the program. Pip Eastop – who I’ve heard many times on recordings but live for the first time tonight – gave a marvelous performance of the Brahms Op. 40 Trio on natural horn. He was joined by Susan Waterbury on violin and Xak Bjerken on piano. Performing this work on the natural horn adds an entirely new dimension, I think, especially in terms of the colors and potential for shading and blend. Mr. Eastop took full advantage of these opportunities, exploring a range of timbres from raucous to ethereal. Following this, Frank Lloyd performed John Harbison’s Twilight Music, which has the same instrumentation as the Brahms, but is composed in a very different style (he was also joined by Susan Waterbury and Xak Bjerken). The technical difficulties in this piece are substantial, but the players were definitely up to the task. I’ve only heard this piece performed live once before, about 10 or 12 years ago. The last work on the program was Sir Michael Tippett’s Sonata for Four Horns, performed by Lloyd, Eastop, Norton, and Nelsen. This unconventional work is challenging for both performers and audiences, but the effortless virtuosity of tonight’s quartet made it a pleasure to hear.

More tomorrow!

IHS 48 Report No. 1

UntitledThis is the first of several brief updates regarding the 48th International Horn Symposium at Ithaca College. After several short connecting flights, I arrived in Ithaca yesterday afternoon. As mentioned in this post, I am staying with some relatives here in Ithaca, who picked me up from the airport – thanks Josephine and Shawn! This morning marked the first official day of the symposium, and things got off to a very good start.

I arrived on the picturesque Ithaca College campus in the morning, and found the symposium registration process to be very straightforward and well run. The majority of the events at IHS 48 are divided between two buildings, the Whalen Center for Music (performances, lectures, competitions) and the Campus Center (exhibits). They are located a short walk from each other, making the navigation process very simple. After lunch, the symposium opening ceremony began at 1:00 p.m. Members of the IHS Advisory Council performed the World Premiere of a new work by Dana Wilson, a member of the Ithaca College faculty who has several well known compositions for horn. The performance was followed by remarks from Karl Paulnack, Dean of the Ithaca College School of Music, Alex Shuhan, Symposium Host, and Jeff Nelsen, IHS President. Their remarks were at times funny, but also poignant, given the recent tragedy in Orlando, Florida. All three speakers emphasized the importance of music and the connections it forges between people, fitting words to begin IHS 48! The opening ceremony wrapped up with two more performances: “On the Departure of Beloved Friends,” by Michael Patrick Coyle, a neo-Romantic work written in memory of Larry Jonas, friend and classmate of the composer (Conductor Nancy Joy also dedicated this particular performance to several members and friends of the Horn Society who had passed since the last symposium) and a lively rendition of  Vittorio Monti’s Czardas, arranged by Tony Rickard for two solo horns (Jeff Nelsen and Peter Luff) with horn ensemble accompaniment (IHS Advisory Council).

After the concert I spent a few minutes checking out the exhibits. I didn’t get to see everything, but my first impressions were very good. The layout of the rooms seems adequate, and the exhibit rooms are pretty easy to find. I’ll write a more detailed update later this week once I’ve spent some time seeing all of the exhibit rooms.  The rest of the afternoon was spent rehearsing for our performance tomorrow, and having dinner with my relatives. Since I’ll be here for the entire symposium, I’m making a conscious effort to pace myself.

More tomorrow!

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