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|Volume 2 Issue 3, March 2017|
One of the three main migration routes for cranes leads right over Luxembourg City. In early spring and mid-autumn, the noisy birds (you’ve got to hear it to believe it!) make the several thousand-kilometer journey between Scandinavia and southern Spain. Some flocks travel as far as northern Africa. These amazing creatures face hunger, exhaustion, and peril on the way to their destination, and yet they manage to survive. It boggles my mind how they do it, and yet I feel a kinship with them.
The theme of this month’s newsletter, migration, is close to my heart – I’ve been an expat for over 20 years, having lived in Germany, Denmark, Belgium, and now Luxembourg. So many people around the world are on the move right now, by choice or necessity, shaping lives, careers, and friendships, often just struggling to survive, far from their original homes and loved ones. Strange customs, languages, even highly unfamiliar cuisines are all part of the challenges faced by immigrants. On top of that, homesickness and bureaucracy confront even the most adventurous souls. The trade-off is that an entire world of new experiences awaits us out there in unknown lands! One of my favorite quotes on this topic comes from Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.” I don’t know where I would be without the kindness, generosity, and support of the locals in every country where I’ve settled these past two decades.
Interview of the Month - Vadim Shvedchikov
Jeff Nelsen: Thank you, Vadim, for taking the time to share your experiences with us. First off, huge congratulations on your most recent award! Your Facebook post said, “Thrilled to receive the ‘Best Musician of the Year’ award from Guiyang Symphony Orchestra! Thanks everyone and Happy Chinese New Year!”
What does this award mean? Why did you get it? What might getting the award inspire in your thoughts about the future?
Vadim Shvedchikov: This award came from the orchestra itself. Orchestra members as well as staff voted for the person they think is the best musician in the orchestra. I was especially happy to receive this award as I only joined the orchestra a year before. I was lucky to play some of the “big” horn pieces during my trial as well as afterwards, including Bruckner 4, Alpine Symphony, Ein Heldenleben, Don Juan, Rosenkavalier, Brahms 1, Beethoven 6, a few Shostakovich symphonies, etc. The “dream playlist” of the horn player!
JN: Why are you a musician? …And why do you play horn?
VS: Well, that’s actually a funny story. For my primary school, I studied at “Gymnasium” (a general, all-subject institution –Ed.) and was taking piano and music theory lessons at the music school/lyceum. Later on when I was in Grade 5, I decided to go completely into music and quit the Gymnasium. My mom was a music history professor at the same music school/lyceum I went to, so that made her happy. I had played piano for almost 11 years when I told my mother that I didn’t want to play anymore – I wanted to try some wind instrument like…clarinet. She thought it was just a “teenage caprice” and assumed it was something I needed to try for a short period of time before being back at the piano. She went to the ensemble manager and got me a clarinet. When I was putting it together, I realized that the mouthpiece was missing (what luck!), so asked my mom to return it. She went back to the manager and asked for “any instrument you have that he can just get and play straight away.” The manager said, “What about the horn?”
JN: And so the rest is history. Nice. What was your first performance success that you can remember that made you want to keep practicing, and want to be a professional musician?
VS: My first success was when I got my first job. There was an opening at the National Symphony Orchestra of Uzbekistan, and I decided to take a chance. At that time, I still had some difficulties in my playing that needed to be fixed (as I started quite late), but I practiced a lot for that audition. In the end, it worked out. I played my best and was happy to get into the professional orchestra.
JN: You’ve been migrating around the planet quite a bit. Sounds exciting, to say the least. Give us a short trip through your pre-professional music life. School, lessons, competitions?
Alexander and Sergey Akimov – A Quarter Century in Seoul
(compiled and edited by Mike Harcrow)
Alexander: I grew up in a musical home in Belarus where, most evenings, the sounds of balalaika and bayan accompanied the singing of Russian folk songs. While I began horn very late, at age 17, I graduated from Gomel College (a music vocational high school), and I earned degrees from both the Minsk and St. Petersburg Conservatories. Among my teachers was Vitali Bujanovski. The video here is a recording I made for soviet television of Caccini’s Ave Maria, and you can hear that it is in the soviet style you might associate with Prof. Bujanovski.
In 1986 after the nuclear power plant disaster at Chernobyl, I determined somehow to leave Belrus to protect my family. I had been working as solo horn of the Minsk Bolshoi Opera Theatre, but I eventually accepted a position in Moscow with the Russian Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Veronika Dudarova. I spent a year working in both Moscow and Minsk, alternating two weeks in one city and two in the other. While with the RSO, I became acquainted with bassoonist Viktor Chmatkov. His colleagues in Kiev introduced us to vacant principal positions with the Korean Symphony Orchestra in Seoul.
We came to Korea together in August, 1992. This was a very difficult time; I needed to leave my country for potential health risks but also because of the worsening economy, but I left my family behind and lived alone in Seoul in a small studio apartment. I found it difficult to cook for myself or to adjust to the Korean diet, and my two front teeth were also a worsening problem since I had suffered an accident in Minsk. In November of 1992, Mike Harcrow joined the horn section of the KSO as associate principal. We became great friends, but even with Viktor and Mike as companions, I was lonely and missing my family. I occupied my time trying to learn both Korean and English. Finally, after over a year in the KSO, I was able to bring my wife and two children, Tanya and Sergey, to Seoul in October of 1993.
Early Registration for the Natal Symposium
An American in Thailand
by Daren Robbins
My migration story began rather unintentionally. At the time I first came to Thailand I had recently finished my doctorate had a series of adjunct and interim teaching jobs under my belt. I was looking and applying for anything that would allow me to stay put for a while. When I saw the ad for the job at Mahidol University in Thailand I applied for it, not too seriously at first but I figured it couldn't hurt to throw my hat in the ring. I had heard of Mahidol through acquaintances and because they had hosted an International Trumpet Guild Conference, but I knew almost nothing about Thailand, in fact I am sure I could not have pointed to it on an unlabeled map.
After I applied, one thing led to another and eventually they offered me the job. My first thought was “Oh &%*$, what am I gonna do now?!” I had never imagined myself living outside the U.S. After a few weeks of handwringing I decided to accept the job. It was a leap of faith, leaving most of my possessions in my parent's basement and taking only what I could fit in two suitcases, and it took a good six or seven months of being here before I became convinced that it was the right move.
The differences I have found between Thailand and the U.S. are both subtle and striking. Some differences are superficial; for example, students are required to wear uniforms and the academic year begins in June and finishes in February. Our curriculum is modeled after music degrees in the United States so there was not much to adjust to there. One unique thing about our College is that we have a Young Artists Program which is a music-intensive high school program where, starting in tenth grade, students live on campus in dedicated music dormitories and study with university-level music teachers.
A Musical Life in the Caribbean
by Marquis Cahill
When I visited my parents in St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, I was planning on staying just a while and then moving on. Things did not go as planned.
I saw an ad in the local paper for a position at the local college for a theory/piano instructor. Although I had not played piano in 17 years, I applied. The music director had seen me performing horn in the local calypso tent with a band from St. John -- “reality” (I thought: grim reality!) -- and he felt this displayed a good attitude toward the local culture, a factor in my being hired.
When this position ended, Caneel Resort invited me to play piano in their fine dining room. Cramming from songbooks led to a decent season as the “dressed-up man playing the piano.” When tourist season and, subsequently, this job ended, I had a chance to housesit on the British island, Jost Van Dyke. This island then had 150 residents (all cousins), no electricity, and no roads. I lived in a simple house on a private beach and went to St. John once a week for an hour of survival-related activities: signing at the unemployment office (a benefit from the college job), getting a check from the post office and cashing it, and buying groceries. This peaceful summer ended when I got a notice of a temporary job filling in for a high-school choir teacher on maternity leave.
Although I had never considered being a public school teacher, to my great surprise I loved the job. The lady never came back, and I stayed…for 32 years! I found great satisfaction in leading memorized performances of the Vivaldi Gloria and Magnificat, Bach Cantata 4, Handel’s Messiah, Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, and other works with a choir in black public school. In addition to choir, I taught brass classes and music theory.
Some singers on St. John, a National Park island with 2,500 residents, asked me to form a choir there. This led to 30 years of concerts, touring to other islands, and many friendships. A choir on St. Thomas and some church groups soon asked me to help them, too. Since I was doing so much choral work, I went to the Westminster Choir College in the summers, taking useful classes.
Meet Your Makers - Dennis Houghton
I grew up in Southern California, in a family where music and the arts were appreciated. As a 13-year-old boy, I have one vivid memory of the glorious sound of the horn and how it impacted my life: I was attending a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. The orchestra opened with Tchaikovsky's Symphony #4 (still one of my favorites). I was so inspired and from that moment on, I knew I wanted to play the horn.
The first opportunity I had to learn the horn came a few years later, in the 10th grade, at Los Alamitos High School. Because of my late start, the band director suggested I take a few lessons with the first-chair horn player at the school, Karen Swarthout (who later became my wife!). In addition to Karen, I took private lessons from Ed Jackson and Drew Lowery, two free-lancers in the LA area.
After graduating from high school, I attended California State University Long Beach and began horn study with Fred Fox, a former member of the LA Philharmonic and studio player.
Karen and I both attended CSULB, during which time we also took lessons with James Decker (USC horn teacher and Hollywood studio player). Mr. Decker would often invite us to attend studio calls and we were able to observe the fascinating world of Hollywood studio musicians. Karen and I even had the opportunity to play on a "B" movie soundtrack, "The Hunting Season" (lots of stopped horn and dissonant long tones!).
Pedagogy - Zdenek Svab
Posso considerar a minha vida de professor e músico no Brasil a partir de julho 1968, quando fui contratado pelo Maestro Isaac Karabtchevsky como 1º. Trompista (cornista) da OSB (Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira) Uma clausula do contrato exigia ensino de instrumento. Assim que começou a larga vida pedagógica e profunda convivência com mundo de “trompistas” nesta gigante terra. Na época não erra muito simpática a classe das trompas. Instrumento considerado facilmente falho. Evitava se de fazer uma presença significativa nas peças dos compositores da época. Tinha realmente motivos. Os trompetistas que não poderiam ser aproveitados, passaram tocar a trompa, mas do mesmo jeito como tocavam os trompetes. Os estrangeiros que vieram depois da II guerra (italianos e alemãs comprometidos de envolvimento com os regimes opressores) se aventuraram de tocar a trompa, porque era instrumento que mais precisava, mesmo não tendo conhecimento e nunca estudaram o instrumento. As exceções erram raras. O estudo de instrumento não tinha uma rigidez e estrutura planejada. Tentei convencer os jovens aspirantes de assumir estudo programado, diário e com grande importância para escadas e arpejos. Depois de algum tempo os mais dedicados começaram a se destacar o que deu uma rápida aceitação pelos outros. Como que fui convidado para todos os festivais de música pelo todo país, método se espalhou e classe dos trompistas cresceu com uma velocidade impressionante e nível também.
IHS 2017 in Natal, Brazil
We are looking forward to seeing you in Brazil for the 2017 International Horn Symposium, June 26-30! Bookmark the website and return to it often as more information gets added. This is going to be an exciting and packed event. See you there!
International Horn Society