by Steve Park
It is probably assumed that most people who play horn at a professional level would choose to do it for a living. But that may not always be the best path to take. I have chosen a different path than most and have really been happy with the results.
I have always been good at playing horn. While I was still in junior high school, the high school band director recruited me to play in his band. They were preparing to perform at the Mid-west Clinic in Chicago, which means that they were one of the top bands in the country. They already had 5 horns, so they really didn’t need me. But the band director recognized that I played really well and offered me the opportunity.
I was first chair in All-state band. There were 8 horns in the section. As a senior in high school, I played 3rd horn in the orchestra and brass choir at the University of Utah. Both groups met in the afternoon on alternate days. I was able to arrange my schedule so that I could leave the high school early each day to make the rehearsals.
As a freshman at the University of Utah I had a full tuition music scholarship and played first horn in all the groups. I also got my first taste of studio recording. We recorded the theme music for the KSL Channel 5 News. The horn part was dominant in the music, and for the next couple of years I got to hear myself every time my parents watched the evening news. Today I do studio recording sessions on a regular basis and play in most of the contract orchestra gigs in the Salt Lake City area. At a recording session a couple of years ago, one of the Utah Symphony horn players asked me why I didn’t play professionally.
Which brings me back to the title of this article. I love to teach. I must say that I didn’t know this would be the case when I first started teaching. It took me a couple of years to discover that I really liked teaching and that I was good at it. I taught high school band for 10 years, and I have been teaching junior high school band (7th – 9th grades) for 15 years. I love teaching young students to play an instrument. I love the first day when they get their brand-new instruments and are so excited. I love the first school concert, which happens just 8 weeks later. I love their enthusiasm, which continues to grow and grow as they get better each year. It is satisfying to play well in a concert or recording session. But for me, it is, perhaps, more rewarding to stand in front of a group of students that I have worked with and grown close to for months and years and conduct them as we create something special and beautiful together. The applause of an audience at a performance where I am playing horn is great! But the heartfelt, appreciative applause of parents after their children have played with skill and obvious joy is another feeling entirely. I don’t get teary-eyed as a performer. It happens to me often and I teach and work with my young students.
From a financial standpoint, I also appreciate the economic stability, benefits, and retirement package that I have as a teacher. I don’t have to worry if my school is going to be in business next year!
So, I really do enjoy the best of both worlds. I am rehearsing and performing on my horn on a weekly basis. It is rewarding and I enjoy it a lot. It also gives me a lot of extra spending money each month, which is an added bonus! And I get to teach young people about the wonderful world of music. I am fortunate to be in a position to be an influence for good in their lives, and that brings a lot of joy into mine.