by Klayton Schaefer

klayton schaeferIn May of 2020, I was fortunate enough to graduate with my master’s degree from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music as a student of Denise Tryon. The two years I spent working on this degree were both incredibly challenging and extremely rewarding. In March, like almost every college in the United States, all instruction at CCM moved to distance learning due to the Covid-19 global pandemic. This shift offered up some new and exciting challenges and completely changed every part of my time at school. I had no idea going into it how much this pandemic would change everything I considered to be normal.

At the start of the pandemic, many of my colleagues and I felt overwhelmed by all the drastic changes and measures being taken. When schools started to announce their closures, my entire campus community rushed to retrieve their belongings from lockers and studios not knowing if we would have the chance to return. I tried to remain positive that things would be okay, but being so unsure of the future created a great deal of anxiety. I was sad no longer to have the opportunity to attend my private lessons and classes, perform and work with my colleagues, and go to the numerous events on campus. However, I was comforted to know the school administration and faculty were doing everything that could be done to continue our education as safely as possible.

Going into the pandemic, I was extremely lucky to be living with two fellow CCM horn players. Having these friends helped immensely as we would often warm up and play duets, trios, and orchestral passages together. With the aid of Zoom, I was able to connect with a wider group of friends from CCM and others across the country. Together, we warmed up and chatted about horn history and pedagogy on countless video calls. Being able to connect with these musicians made the end of my degree special.

One of the biggest disappointments during this transition was the cancellation of my master’s recital. I was excited to be able to share the music into which I had put months of work. At first, we were given the possibility of performing to an empty hall, but it quickly became obvious that even this was not a safe option. After careful consideration, Denise and I decided to cancel my recital. This decision certainly left me unsatisfied, but I am hopeful for the day when I can perform another recital. On a positive note, one of the benefits to come from canceling my recital was the opportunity to work on aspects of my playing that Denise and I felt we did not have the time to cover prior to the pandemic. This allowed me to direct focus toward the playing of etudes and fundamental exercises. It felt nice to have the chance to slow everything down and truly focus with no distractions.

The biggest academic requirement I had to finish during the pandemic was passing an oral board. The oral board is a presentation on the history of the horn, its pedagogy, and its mechanics. Thankfully, Denise made preparation as streamlined as possible by providing many opportunities to study the materials with her and another graduate student. The test itself was completed on Zoom during finals week and once it was done, I had officially completed my degree. The immediate feeling of relief and joy was overwhelming. I will always remember hearing Denise tell me I was officially a Master of music.

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Graduating during this time is certainly an experience I will not forget. This pandemic has changed everything we consider to be normal and has made me appreciate the times I spent with all of my teachers, friends, and colleagues at CCM. I was so lucky to spend two amazing years studying with Denise, working with so many wonderful horn players, and exploring as much music as possible. I cannot wait for the day when I can celebrate in person with all of the wonderful people I have met. Congratulations to the entire class of 2020!


A native of Upstate New York, hornist Klayton Schaefer is an active teacher, orchestral, and chamber musician. As a freelance performer, he has played with ensembles in New York state and Ohio, including the Orchestra of Northern New York, Schenectady Symphony Orchestra, and the Northern Symphonic Winds. An active chamber musician, Klayton has played with the Potsdam Brass Quintet, Frackenpohl Brass Quintet, and in collaboration with the Canadian Brass. He has been in masterclasses and coachings with Frøydis Ree Wekre, Bernhard Scully, Anthony Plog, David Wakefield, Joe Alessi, and Lisa Conway.

Klayton completed his Master of Music degree in Horn Performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Horn Performance from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. His primary horn instructors include Denise Tryon, Elizabeth Freimuth, Lauren Becker, and Joshua Thompson.

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