The old adage, “Those who can’t, teach,” is not only passé, it is disparagingly false. Culture currently seems to promote specialists in so many pursuits, but our history demonstrates that great hornists have also been wonderful composers, violinists, organists, instrument makers, nuclear physicists, and even sausage mongers (or cheese mongers, depending on whose historical accounts are proven correct). For decades, there has existed a very large population of professional hornists who have worked full-time as music educators. Most of them don’t work in the limelight of a major orchestra chair – although a few do – or have their name attached to a record label as a spectacular soloist, and many of them want neither of those things; their satisfaction comes from training children to love music as much as they do. Make no mistake: music education is a tough career choice. Juggling administrative relationships, ever-changing curriculum edicts, show seasons, standardized classroom testing, band boosters, parent-teacher meetings, fund raisers, and bus duty – and this list is vastly longer – can easily pull a teacher away from the horn. Those who make the concentrated effort to pursue their playing careers at the highest level possible, however, are more likely to be those whose teaching never becomes routine or grows stale…the kinds of teachers with whom I’d want my own children to study.
This month’s edition of the IHS E-Newsletter introduces us to just a few of these marvelous colleagues who, each in his or her own unique and sometimes very personal way, relate to us the challenges and rewards of pursuing dual passions as well as some beautiful thoughts about how parallel careers can intersect and support one another.
Mike Harcrow IHS E-Newsletter Team
Position Announcement International Horn Society Executive Director
Heidi Vogel, Executive Director of the IHS for more than 20 years, has announced her retirement from this position effective January 1, 2019. A search has begun for her successor. More information about the position and how to apply is available on the website.
Interview of the Month — Jerry Peel
Kristina Mascher-Turner: As I write these questions, I've got your "Heart's Journey" album playing and keep getting distracted by your lush, emotionally generous playing! Can you tell us how this album came to be? What inspired you to give birth to it?
Jerry Peel: I believed early in my career that the horn had the musical equivalency of the old Sarah Lee commercial “Nobody doesn’t love Sarah Lee.” I believed that “nobody wouldn’t love the horn” - they just needed to be introduced! It became a personal quest for me to make that introduction. I also believed that the horn had the characteristics to be a much more commercially viable solo instrument. While I was horn professor at the University of Miami in the 70’s (a great place to think non-traditionally!), I began that quest by asking a few composer/arranger/horn playing students and composer colleagues if they would be willing to write some “new” music for solo horn. Out of those collaborations came my first record, “A Horn of a Different Color.” When I moved to New York in the early 80’s I continued to plead with and cajole colleagues whose work I admired to write for me. At that point, I wanted solo horn, string quartet, and rhythm section to be the base ensemble and wanted music that could be played live. Many wonderful friends and colleagues responded in such a positive way that soon I had a library of arrangements of every style imaginable. And, yes, I did perform an evening of some of that music with some notables in the band, an evening I’m not likely to ever forget! Years later, due to fortuitous circumstances and generous friends, I was able to finance a second solo recording project. I realized then that I just wanted to record music that allowed me to do what I enjoyed the most, singing on the horn! And, “Heart’s Journey” was born. I had plans for two more recording projects. But life intervenes while one makes plans, and a bout with focal dystonia in the early 2000’s forced me to put the horn in the box, one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made. But, one that those with a true passion for the horn can easily understand.
KMT: As a young hornist, how did the strong Texas high school band tradition shape you as a player and teacher?
JP: I’ve often said how fortunate I am to have been born and raised in Kirbyville, Texas, a small town known for its fire department, churches on every corner - and its high school band! The band director, Karl Wadenpfuhl, and his wife Lottie, became my musical parents through all my school years. Luckily for me, Karl was an ex horn player - and even years after not playing, still had a really dark singing sound which he demonstrated sparingly. He was self-conscious about his limited ability at that point, but I loved listening to him. That was the sound in my young ears, only to be replaced with the Hollywood horn sound. In Kirbyville, there was very little exposure to live music, so I was captive to recordings and films to get my early impressions of that sound that both guided and frustrated my attempts to duplicate. Only, years later, did I learn that that massive horn sound on the films I loved was probably the result of 8 to 16 players! I say I was frustrated because I was never able to get that same quality of sound from my horn that was in my ears.
The Barry Tuckwell Scholarship awards up to $500 to encourage and support worthy horn students as they pursue education and performance opportunities by attending and participating in masterclasses and workshops throughout the world. The application deadline for this scholarship has been moved up to December 1, 2017.
Practicing What I Preach
by Mark Syslo
My name is Mark Syslo, and like most of you, I am enthusiastic about playing the horn! I am also an instrumental music teacher. I want to thank Dr. Mike Harcrow for the opportunity to tell my story about being an educator and horn player. I first knew I wanted to “share music with others” when I was in 11th grade. I attended Mansfield University of Pennsylvania to study music education and studied horn with Mr. David Borsheim. After Mansfield, I was hired to teach 4th to 12th grade instrumental music in the Greenwood School District in Millerstown, PA. While at Greenwood, I worked on my graduate degree in music education at Penn State University. After nine years at Greenwood, I was hired to teach instrumental music in the Parkland School District in Allentown. I am the band director at two elementary schools in the district in addition to being an instructor in the fall with the high school marching band. I have just finished my 26th year of teaching.
Over the years, I have also enjoyed playing my horn as much as my schedule allows. The idea that I “practice what I preach” in my classroom has never gone away. (What kind of music teacher who has not touched his/her instrument in years asks a student to practice?!?) Over the years, I have played civic orchestras, community bands, musicals, solo work, in church, etc. Having a full-time job allows me to accept playing that is rewarding, and not necessarily for pay.
Being a music teacher who continues to play and perform can be very demanding. Anyone who thinks being a teacher is easy truly has no idea what it is to be a teacher. My job requires working with colleagues, administrators, and students while wearing a smile constantly! Yes, constantly! I write music, schedule rehearsals that are not scheduled for me, reschedule lessons that are missed for a myriad of reasons, stay in constant contact with parents, AND save enough energy for Friday night football games for the first three months of the school year!
My ten-year-old self would be so disappointed by my thirty-year-old self. I was going to be the greatest horn player of my time. I wept on my bedroom floor when I read the fingering chart incorrectly and tried to play A-flat with fingers one and two. It didn’t sound right. There was something wrong with me! I would never be the greatest because I can’t play A-flat! Obviously I got that figured out. Barry Tuckwell was my hero; I even named my goldfish “Barry.” When at last it was time for college, I figured I had better go to music conservatory because who really has time for math and English? Must practice. I did everything I could to pursue a career in performing and things went well. I won a small, but professional, audition during college and had enough free-lance work to support myself.
Fast forward about ten years. I have around 150 students ranging from preschool to high school age. My classes are general music, band, choir, and handbells. I’ll admit, it’s kind of crazy but I had been pulled into teaching little by little. It started with giving piano lessons and doing after school tutoring on the side and that was it, I was sold! When presented with the opportunity to teach a subject I was passionate about, I could hardly turn it down. I found myself sharing the most basic elements of music in a more interactive way than I had before. For the most part, it seemed that my students were enjoying music and growing from the relationships we were building. We were all being challenged.
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.
Informal thoughts and a survey: How do we keep up our chops AND keep our sanity intact when we are horn players AND full-time teachers, and have other commitments (spouse, kids, aging parents) as well?
Dear IHS friends,
When Mike Harcrow and Kristina Mascher-Turner asked me to contribute something for the August 2017 E-Newsletter, exploring the subject of that old teaching/playing/life juggling act came to mind, and so I ran with it. I’ve been a “jazz/improvised music/everything” free-lance hornist and bandleader my whole adult life, but I’ve only been a full-time college music teacher for five years now (going on six, and eight if you count the time as an adjunct as well). Frankly, the past five years have truly been a challenge in a way that they never had been before, in terms of keeping up playing chops while teaching a full-time load and having a family (now with two busy teenagers). Not that I am complaining, as I am very grateful to have my job, and I love my students and fellow teachers, but wow, this balancing act is not easy. (Horn-playing teachers who have been doing this for 10, 20, 30 years, feel free to laugh at me!)
Lessons from Building a Successful Career as a Teacher and Hornist
by Brad Tatum
As hornists, we live in a society full of musicians who are aspiring to win that position with a full-time orchestra or other performing arts organization. It is easy for musicians who are fresh out of college to feel a sense of failure if they have not yet achieved this. Sadly, the old and inappropriate adage that those who can’t, teach, has always seemed truer for musicians than any other field. However, I am fortunate that at this stage in my life I have achieved a degree of success as a teacher and performer and find that they are quite complementary to each other. In this article, I hope to share some lessons I have learned along the way of how to be successful doing both, and to demonstrate how teaching can make you a better performer and vice-versa.
In addition to being blessed with a wife and two kids, I currently teach band and orchestra full time at Elizabeth Seton High School, play principal natural horn for the Washington Bach Consort, instruct a large studio of horn players, give recitals and masterclasses at universities, and freelance in the Washington, DC area. Most recently, I had the wonderful experience of hosting the first ever D.C. Horn Choir Camp at my high school. It was a terrific way to use my skills as a hornist and band director to benefit others.
I started my teaching career while completing my DMA at Maryland, and I have been teaching for nine years. My struggles to be a good music teacher and hornist have always seemed to coincide; so far, success in one has brought success in the other. It is safe to say it all began when I established a routine of practicing first thing in the morning before school. Not only has this created a great habit, but also it has made me a better music teacher. Some days this was my only chance to practice, and on the days I got distracted by other tasks, I always wished I had practiced first. It forced me to use my time wisely and to learn to practice with an emphasis on quality over quantity. It also helps me wake up and feel more focused before my school day begins.
Pedagogy — “Do you want a career in music, or a life in music?”
by Dr. Brian McLaughlin
“Do you want a career in music, or a life in music?” Henry Mancini’s question is still valid after all these years. Our colleges, universities, and conservatories are filled with young horn players who imagine that they will one day grace the sections of America’s orchestras. Performance majors walk the halls of every institution, and over the years I have heard many of them tell me thatthey are absolutely certain that they will never teach. “I just want to play,” they say. But all of us are part of a long tradition of teaching. The great players of our craft only got that way because someone taught them, and 99% of them teach as a part of their performing careers. It is a responsibility for us, as participants in the genealogy of the horn, to pass on what we have learned. We all are keepers of the flame.
So what does a “life in music” look like? For most of us who make our living as musicians, it is a patchwork of various musical activities, including performing, teaching, writing, arranging, conducting, and more. Each person emphasizes their strengths, and various components may take center stage for a while as the demands of our lives change. For those of us who will make teaching a major part of our musical lives, there are three interdependent topics that are good to keep in mind: musicianship, standard of acceptability, and musical imagination.
The essential thing for everyone who strives to be a good teacher is that they also strive to become a fine musician. While there are some great teachers out there who, for a variety of reasons, no longer perform, there are none who are not outstanding musicians. Learn all you can about theory, form, and history. Learn about the lives of composers. Learn about the lives of the great horn players of the past. Listen to performances of great violinists, pianists, vocalists, and other wind instrumentalists so that you can go beyond the mechanics of horn playing. Listen to the way they phrase their lines. Educate yourself so that your interpretation is informed. Let the music guide your musical decisions, rather than letting the difficulties of horn playing dictate them. Our instrument is so technically demanding that it is easy to get caught up in getting the notes out and miss the emotional communication of which the horn is capable. For students involved in a music education degree, this is your primary goal: while you are in school, do all you can to become the best musician possible.
We are looking forward to seeing you "back home again in Indiana" for the 2018 International Horn Symposium, July 30 - August 4! The symposium website listing featured artists, travel options, etc., will be available soon. Come celebrate the 50th IHS family reunion with us.
Your Horn and More IHS E-newsletter team:
Nobuaki Fukukawa Mike Harcrow Ab Koster Kristina Mascher-Turner (editor) Jeff Nelsen Andrew Pelletier Dan Phillips