Autumn has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere and spring in the Southern. School is in session in most parts of the world, and ensemble performances seem to be back to pre-covid norms in many places. I’ve noticed that student populations are growing, too, both in institutional and private studios, and this makes me especially happy. Musicians appreciating these old norms also seem to be enjoying new and productive changes brought on by the isolation (and loss of income) which covid caused.
Horn and More is undergoing some changes as well. Our fantastic Editorial Staff is growing (see the updated list at the bottom of the newsletter). Last month, for example, we introduced Caiti Beth McKinney’s excellent Composer Spotlight column; and this month, we welcome the return of Jeff Nelsen with Fearless Performance, and we unveil Ian Zook’s wonderful Horn on Record—all as recurring columns.
In addition to this outstanding new material, the October issue of Horn and More focuses on entrepreneurship. Long-time friend Dennis Houghton discusses what it took for him and his family to build their incredible business, Houghton Horns, in Texas; and our newest Editorial Staff member, Austris Apenis (who will manage our Europe desk), introduces himself with an encouraging piece on how he survived covid, inventing himself anew by creating horn-related enterprises. And, of course, we have our excellent Pedagogy Column as well as some fascinating background information about IHS 55!
I would like to thank all the volunteer staff here at Horn and More. To solicit or create material on such a regular basis takes time and effort, but we do it for you, our horn-playing friends and colleagues around the world, to support, challenge, and encourage you in what you do. If you might be interested in being part of the Horn and More team, we are looking particularly for someone from the African continent to keep us informed of horn-related activities there; and we will always welcome more news from Asia and the Middle East. AND I’d still like to have a regular laugh as part of Horn and More in the form of original cartoons, memes, jokes, or humorous anecdotes (check out Ein Waldhorn Lustig below for an example from my own experience). Please email me if you have an interest in joining us in any of these capacities or if you simply want to let us know about something special happening in your corner of the horn world.
Enjoy our great October issue!
Mike Harcrow Editor, Horn and More
Houghton Horns: The Building of a Business
by Dennis Houghton
Houghton Horns began very humbly nearly four decades ago in 1985. My wife Karen and I had arrived in Texas after studying in Germany on a Rotary foundation scholarship in 1982-83. We had two kids, no money, and no resources, but we loved to play and teach young students about the horn.
During my college years in California, I used the services of Atkinson music for repairs to my horn. I admired what Bob Atkinson and his son Mark were doing. They specialized in horn repairs, maintenance, and customization for the top studio musicians of the time. A visit to their shop in Burbank was always interesting—and you had a good chance of meeting a famous horn player or two!
We came to the Fort Worth area in the fall of 1984, and I quickly began building a studio of about 50 horn students. Things went well, and many local directors liked my teaching, but I didn’t know what I would do for income during the lean summer months when schools were closed and the number of lessons dropped.
About a month before the school year ended, one of the band directors asked if I could clean some horns for him. I knew how to disassemble and clean my instrument, so I figured that might be a fun task. Cleaning horns with basic chemicals and my available tools was effective, and I enjoyed the work, but I had much to learn.
That first summer, I contracted work from about six schools and cleaned a total of 50 or 60 instruments. I’d had no training in soldering or dent removal, so I just stuck to what I knew. I also knew what local music stores were charging for similar services, and I felt like there was business potential—and as a horn player, I felt I could do a better job than most repair techs.
I enjoyed the opportunity to work out of my own home and to be near my wife and kids. My teaching schedule kept me away from home for over 50 hours a week, so being home was a very nice benefit.
Did you know that you can make a full-time living teaching a horn studio in many parts of Texas? The band programs are quite competitive in the large metropolitan areas, and the directors generally encourage the kids to sign up for private...
Welcome to a brand new and ongoing series of articles dedicated to re-discovering and preserving recordings from a bygone era.
For each installment of Horn on Record, we will examine a recording which has existed only on vinyl record and which has not yet been commercially digitized. For each featured album, a retrospective of the artist and album contents will be provided along with comments about historic style and influence—and there will be audio excerpts!
Our first album, produced by Hungaroton in 1973, comes from Ádám Friedrich, and it features a program of standard repertoire: Brahms’ Trio, Op. 40, Schumann’s Adagio & Allegro, and Dukas’ Villanelle, alongside a less-frequently performed work, Duvernoy’s Trio No. 1 for violin, horn, and piano. The collaborating musicians are pianist Sándor Falvai and violinist Miklós Szenthelyi.
Ádám Friedrich (1937-2019) was a Hungarian hornist who grew up in Hajdúböszörmény where his mother was a music teacher. From 1951-1956, he studied at the Miskolc Conservatory. He then entered the Academy of Music in Budapest, where he was a student of Ferenc Romagnoli and Zoltán Lubik.
He joined the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra in 1960 and served as a first horn from 1966-1991. A founding member of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, Friedrich also performed throughout his career with the Ferenc Liszt Chamber Orchestra and the Hungarian Chamber Orchestra.
Friedrich held numerous teaching positions as well. He began teaching at the Béla Bartók Conservatory in 1973, and then from 1983-1997 at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music. Between 1994-2002, he was an associate professor at the Béla Bartók Institute of Music at the University of Miskolc.
In 1994, Ádám Friedrich was elected vice-president of the International Horn Society, and the following year, he organized the 1st Hungarian International Horn Festival.
Listening to Ádám Friedrich’s recordings, we can tie the artistry of his interpretations to many of the qualities that make his playing so unique: a vocal and shimmering arc to the phrasing, a compact and precisely crafted tone, and an absolute tidiness in articulation.
Concerning tone color in particular, we can hear that much of the playing is on the Bb horn, with a fair amount of use of the high F horn too. The range of tone colors that Friedrich is able to explore on these shorter tube lengths is illuminating, and it demonstrates that his authentic and graceful sensibilities are only heightened by these choices.
In Dukas’ Villanelle, we will listen as Friedrich floats through the opening espressivo melody:
Later, in the section marked en echo, we hear the ghostly muted effect effortlessly and subtly meld into the ouvert pianissimo:
This recording of Villanelle ends with a jaunty tempo, propelled by Friedrich’s sparkling single-tongue articulations:
The Duvernoy Trio No. 1 in C major only has two movements. As we listen to the opening of the piece, notice the intensity of sound created by the rhythmic and melodic unisons of the performers. This tension gives way to a beautifully spun main theme in the horn. Both Friedrich’s lyrical phrasing and velvety articulations bring this music to life:
Our last excerpt comes from the allegro. Duvernoy’s breezy melodies and idiomatic horn writing further showcase Ádám Friedrich’s nimble style and his blend with the piano’s rhythmic pulsation:
I hope you enjoyed our first installment of Horn on Record! If you would like this vinyl album for yourself, they are available at Discogs. Also, you have the opportunity to help guide the content of this column! Follow this blog link to vote on more upcoming vinyl reviews!
Buy the Book!
by Jeff Nelsen and Katy Webb
Are You Deliberately Practicing Fear?
Are you tired of walking onstage excited and offstage disappointed? We see you. We get it because we’ve been there, too. Practice and performance differ in so many ways, but here’s one way in which they’re similar: practice makes permanent. If you’re hoping to get better at performing by simply performing more often for more people, you might just be practicing (and solidifying?) the act of getting nervous in front of your audience. Yikes!
Are you ready to learn one way to be more deliberately constructive in your performance practice? This emboldening strategy from Fearless Performance will help you improve with every performance you give, build an empowering mindset, and learn what you need in order to share your best.
With a comfy cozy cup of coffee or tea, sometimes it feels like we can conquer the world! But if you’re reading this, it means you’re thoughtful enough to seek out more information on your passions. You know that closing yourself in a practice room with your tasty beverage of choice will not lead to practice gains simply because you put in more time.
Instead, whether you’re fully aware of it or not, you’re making improvements through principles of deliberate practice, like setting clear intentions, collecting feedback on what you’re doing, and making strategic changes. Well, those strategies don’t just work in the practice room. We can make massive improvements when we deliberately practice performance as well.
Behind the technical abilities and musical knowledge that we share with our audience lie our performance abilities. Even though the audience doesn’t get to see these skills, they can greatly impact the musical experience. Among the many magical performance powers you get to bring with you into performance, the top five we suggest that you practice and track are:
self-trust, self-talk, energy, recovery, and fearlessness.
Ultimately, these performance abilities combine to create your quality gap: the difference between what you just did in performance and the best you know you’ve done before. When we are deliberately practicing performance, we are working to identify patterns and make improvements within these five areas so we can enjoy as small a quality gap as possible—basically, so we can play our best in performance, every time.
What gets measured gets managed. Keep performing as much as you can…even serenading your dog with a C-major scale in your kitchen counts! It’s all about how seriously you take it. Then, after each performance, fill out your Performance Scoring Checklist (click the link for your free download). Start collecting your thoughts and data, then use our simple prompts to make adjustments, re-shape your mindset, and start collecting what helps you perform your best.
Cheering you on!
IHS members! If you are in or are planning to be in the Chicago area on October 20, 21, or 22—that’s this month!—the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is offering IHS members $25.00 tickets to experience renowned German conductor Christian Thielemann leading the CSO in Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 8. Please visit our members discount page for the purchase link and the discount code.
“Your life begins only after you graduate….”
by Austris Apenis
One of my teachers said that to me once, and it stuck. Until then, graduation had been the destination to me, but he was right. Absolutely right!
I decided to study the horn professionally when I was 16. The notion I had at that age was, “You need to get a job in an orchestra! If you don’t, what are you going to do then?” I think many professionals can relate to that. It is a great goal to work for and to be motivated by, but we all know how difficult it is to win an audition. And let’s be serious for a moment: how many of us will actually get a job in an orchestra? Even though it is a hard truth, don’t put your head down…and don’t give up yet! There are many other things that we can do. The last couple of years proved this to me.
Young professionals can have it pretty hard. We need to compete with everyone, no matter their age. Building up a network takes time but rent still needs to be payed. I lived that life for several years, and then something unexpected happened. The pandemic….
Without a doubt, no one expected that, and no one could have predicted how much it would change the world and, subsequently, the music business. Personally, I have to say that it was not all for the worse. At the beginning, I was sitting in lockdown with almost no work and only thinking of what to do. I am a person who constantly needs to work, make progress, and better myself. One thing led to the next, and I started learning how to build a website. It was very exciting, and my dopamine level was off the charts! I love working with computers. I was watching YouTube tutorials and studying 11 hours per day. Maybe it was my way of dealing with the pandemic. Who knows? But I learned something about web design, WordPress, SEO, marketing, and all kinds of useful skills that can be handy for an entrepreneur.
After the website was built, I started having doubts if anyone would even be able to find it, but then the next idea hit me: create a YouTube channel!
Since I am quite a shy person and sometimes have problems with stuttering, I could not have imagined a couple years ago that I would consider standing in front of a camera making tutorials about learning how to play the horn. But at that point, I was already outside of my comfort zone and in a nice flow. This seemed like a logical next step, and it really paid off. When I started, I already had a good amount of teaching experience. But also, you can upload anything to YouTube: teaching tutorials, music videos, orchestral excerpts…whatever you want to show to the world, and so this next adventure began. I had to learn video editing, filming, standing in front of the camera and talking. As a professional horn player who has already performed for 24 years, I am not a stranger to being on stage, but you won’t believe how difficult it was at first to talk to a camera! (I have gained so much respect now for television news anchors.) I pushed the record button and then started to panic. “Wait, what did I want to say again?” Memorizing lines was extra difficult, and I would stop after every sentence. Because of that, some magic needed to happen in the editing phase. That went on for a while, but then I got more and more comfortable with the process and realized that this is just another skill—quite different from playing the horn, but still a skill—and eventually, I got the hang of it. By the way, I think that we musicians are very good problem solvers and skill learners, even outside of our comfort zones.
This enterprise has taught me a couple of really useful things: recording horn ensembles is incredibly fun and satisfying, YouTube is a very effective way of getting your ideas out into the world, and listening to yourself playing is crucial if you want to improve.
But why am I telling you all of this? Maybe you already know where I am going with it: graduation is not the destination but the beginning. There are more things to do than just playing. Constantly get out of your comfort zone, learn new things which are not related to playing the horn, and, above all, be creative and genuine. That is what people like and will respond to well.
I think this is not said often enough, but I believe that we as a horn community have a responsibility to inspire the future generations, to show people how beautiful, inspiring, and impressive the horn can be, and to evolve with the times and use the most modern tools available to us. We can do so much more than we think!
Conductor of the Community Band: “WHY are the horns so far behind the trumpets?” Hornist in the Community Band: (offended) “Because THAT’S where our chairs are!”
by Caiti Beth McKinney
If you are looking for an inspiring tale of a woman who could do it all, look no further than 19th century composer Louise Farrenc. Originally trained as a pianist, by the age of fifteen she was also studying composition with renowned composer Anton Reicha. However, because female students were not allowed to study at the Paris Conservatoire during this time, she was required to acquire her instruction via private sessions.
After her marriage to flutist Aristide Farrenc, the couple traveled Europe performing concerts together, and they eventually opened a publishing house. Farrenc achieved great acclaim as a performer, earning such respect that she was eventually appointed Professor of Piano at the very same conservatory which had previously barred her entrance.
Although many of her compositions are for piano, Farrenc composed several symphonies and concert works, as well as two chamber works which include the horn, Nonet in E Flat, Op. 38 (1849) and Sextet in C Minor, Op. 40 (1852). The sextet is incredibly important to the history of horn repertoire because it is the first combination of piano and woodwind quintet, paving the way for Poulenc’s famous sextet eighty years later. The work itself is heavily influenced by the Classical style but incorporates harmonic and tonal characteristics of the Romantic era. The nonet is another showstopper, a substantial thirty-minute piece which combines the beautiful timbres of woodwind quintet and string quartet to great effect.
While Farrenc achieved substantial success and renown during her lifetime, her works were largely forgotten until recently; they are just now beginning to receive the attention they deserve.
I had the good fortune to spend an hour on Zoom with British horn legend Frank Lloyd, asking him as many questions about horn playing as he would answer. He was in Kent, England, in sweltering heat, preparing to go on a 500-mile, 10-day bike ride to celebrate his 70th birthday. He began pursuing physical fitness in 1976, soon after having been appointed principal horn in the Scottish National Orchestra—after just having left the Royal Marines Band, and actually in need of a fitness plan. He began running to get in shape, switching to cycling 15 years ago when he suffered a slipped disc. The benefits and overwhelming “feel-good factor of training” helped him tackle stress and keep his mind clear, he explained.
I asked what goes through his head when he’s having a great performance. “The head is usually concentrating on what I’m doing,” knowing that losing one’s concentration for even one second can lead to mistakes. He has never really struggled with technical issues as far as fingers go, so his mind focuses primarily on the music and on the performance as a whole.
Frank grew up in a very rural part of the U.K. where employment opportunities were few. He joined the school brass band on the advice of a close friend, playing trombone (the school was out of cornets, his first choice of instrument), and then joined the Royal Marines Band at 16 by auditioning on trombone. He was accepted but missed the intake of new recruits owing to his school exams. By the time he had re-auditioned, they no longer needed trombonists, but they were in need of horn players, so he switched. He was immediately comfortable on the horn, winning an internal competition after his first year, performing Strauss’s first concerto.
I asked him about technique, about air and embouchure. He said that, as a young player, he was not made aware of the underlying principles of good air flow and support. Because he could play with great facility, his teacher never really focused on the fundamentals. At the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied after leaving the Royal Marines, his teacher, Ifor James, concentrated more on repertoire than...
It all started in 2010—okay, it’s a little more than 10 years ago! Imagine a few horn players and teachers talking, probably around food and drinks, about not having enough opportunities to get together to hang out and play horn ensemble repertoire. This gave birth to the first Montreal Horn Day in 2011. It was a small local event, but we were really excited to offer concerts and masterclasses to about 35 horns players with special guest James Sommerville, principal horn of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and former member of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal.
After a first successful edition, we kept going for a few more! The organization and quality of performances kept growing, and in 2015, after 5 successful editions, the Association québécoise du cor (AQC) was born.
The AQC is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote music written for horn, expand the horn repertoire by Quebec composers, organize high quality concerts, offer learning opportunities to all horn players, and create a sense of community.
Over the years, the Montreal Horn Day has expanded from one to three days, reaching as many as 120 participants in 2019. We have been so lucky as to have amazing guests throughout the years: Radovan Vlatković, Jean-Pierre Dassonville, Teunis van der Zwart, John Zirbel, Kristina Mascher-Turner and Kerry Turner, Julie Landsman, Javier Bonet, Jeff Nelsen, Jeffrey Agrell, and Sarah Willis.
2020 was our 10th and last edition to this day. We had originally planned to host the symposium in 2021, but when the world turned upside down, we decided to postpone it and wait until we could have everyone here in Montreal.
With 10 years of experience hosting the Montreal Horn Days, we are very excited to take on the amazing challenge that is an International Horn Symposium and we are looking forward to bringing you along for the ride!