My name is Michelle Garasi. I am a Horn Instructor in Albuquerque, NM. I am also a non-traditional student at the University of New Mexico, and much like my degree path, the journey to my first IHS Symposium was an unconventional one.
My love affair with the Horn came late in high school, but two years into my music studies at Florida International University, my journey was prematurely and abruptly ended with a near fatal car accident. At the time, I chose to walk away from music-making. But many years, and many children later, I am teaching horn, and studying Horn Performance at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. My dear friend Nancy Joy encouraged me to apply to be a Guest Lecturer at the Symposium. At the time, I wasn’t an IHS member – this honor, I thought, was only reserved for a select few. Sure, I have experienced success understanding the language of teens and tweens, and auto-translating horn pedagogy into a language they could understand – but could I possibly have anything of value to offer this community? I decided to move forward, despite my doubts, and submitted an abstract representing what I had to offer.
I went about my normal purpose, to save the world, one horn at a time. The first half of 2018 represented many miles of “horn-travel”. I was a featured lecturer at the NMMEA Allstate Music Conference - the title of my lecture was “Whistling, Kissing and Pooping: Demystifying the Art of Horn Playing”. I started attending the University of New Mexico to resume my Horn studies, and began performing with the Duke City Horns. My Horn Professor, Dr. Michael Walker discussed the possibility of having Duke City Horns submit an entry for the Collegiate Quartet Competition. My first thought was “You, too!?” We began taking our rehearsals and preparations seriously and started to “interview” performance literature – we immediately loved Kerry Turner’s Sooners. Then I listened to the AHQ perform Gershwin’s Summertime, and Bernstein’s West Side Story and I was blown away. I thought “YES!” - the Duke City Horns felt the same way. As I searched the Internet, I could not find the music for purchase. I was devastated. Then I reached out to Phoenix Publications, thinking “Well, they published all of the other AHQ music – maybe they can help?” In less than 24 hours I received an email from Kristina Mascher-Turner, offering her assistance. Then I looked at the footer, and a bit of research later, I realized this was THE KM-T, and she was willing to help us! We had WSS, and Summertime was on its way after an email to Geoffrey Winter. Could this really be, that the people who were so highly accomplished, were so generous, and kind? This had to be an exception… right?
University of New Mexico’s Duke City Horns got to business, New Mexico State’s Corno Crew (which I was also thrilled to perform with in the Horn Choir Competition) was also getting to work – when I received the email from Gene Berger… I was accepted as a Guest Lecturer. I was exhilarated and terrified at the same time. This was really going to happen. I was headed to Muncie, Indiana for IHS-50.
Fast-forward a few months, and we were in Muncie. I had the unique situation wherein I was attending as a Student, a Lecturer, a Professional and a “mature” adult. I had the privilege of experiencing the extraordinary performances and lectures through a “composite” lens. I was deeply moved time and time again – not only by the caliber of performances, but by the generosity of all involved. The collective vision was very compatible with my own. My fears of utter rejection and humiliation were replaced with a soul-filling sentiment of inclusion; I felt like I too, belonged. I introduced myself to Kristina, and she was as warm as I had hoped – and then some. At the IHS table, standing next to Heidi Vogel was Geoffrey Winter. I proceeded to introduce myself, as THE pest who had bugged him for those brilliant pieces – he came and gave me a hug, as if I had been a long-lost friend. Later that evening, the Duke City Horns received a coaching session from Mr. Winter – again, I thought “Could this possibly be?” My vessel was indeed full!
The Corno Crew performed a beautiful concert, the Duke City Horns experienced their best run at the competition, and I came to the remarkable realization that IHS was not about maintaining the exclusivity of an elite horn club. It was about gleaning knowledge from the old guard, experiencing the masterful craftsmanship of the “new” guard, and inspiring the next generation of ambassadors for our art form. That is why 750 hornists were there, happily sharing, partaking, experiencing, and relishing in this extraordinary event. Seasoned and emerging artists, in one place – both equally important.
As I reflected on the experience in the car ride home, I was sad to leave, but inspired to grow as a voice for hornists in New Mexico and share what I had learned, that this extraordinary organization was there for all of us. IHS works to preserve the history of the art form, to share perspectives that advance and evolve the craft and assure its viability for future generations. I always saw my dear friend Nancy as an exception – a purple goddess that oozed horn – that uniquely belonged in this world. I left IHS, with the understanding that there was a place for me too. There is a place for all horn enthusiasts, whether performers, students or supporters. I am deeply grateful for this inspiring experience, and already plan to attend IHS-51 in Ghent, Belgium.
Michelle Garasi has established herself as a dynamic horn instructor in Albuquerque, NM within the last 14 years. Her teaching philosophy is one that incorporates the classical disciplines of music theory, sight singing, music history, and technical mastery of the horn – in the historical context of the pieces played. Ms. Garasi encourages emotional and social development through mentorship and service, as well as activism to promote social and artistic awareness for all her students. Ms. Garasi, is an active horn clinician, working with Programs from Las Cruces to Cimarron and surrounding areas, where the horn sections have been recognized as among the best in the state. In 2018, over 50% of all horns selected to participate in the NMMEA Allstate Festival, heralded from her studio. Ms. Garasi has been a featured lecturer at the 2018 NMMEA Allstate Festival and the 50th International Horn Society Symposium.