While I can’t be International Horn Competition of America for 2009, I was there in 2005. The original Horn Notes Blog was HTML; this post on the IHCA is from that original blog, dated, 8/26/05. In that time frame I also had a tip with every post; the original tip follows.
I could write much about judging last weekend at the International Horn Competition of America. I was a judge in the university division, [the same] one that I tied for second prize in back in 1989, and thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. I would love to judge again and would recommend the event highly.
Besides judging I had several side projects of my own. One was what type of horns were contestants playing on? I made notes as to what type of horn every player played upon and the conclusion would be [that] what brand and quality level of horn you play on really makes a difference. Not that I did not know that already, but it really confirmed to me that certain brands of popular but cheaper production horns pretty consistently have a bit of a harsh quality to their sound. The two models of common, production horns that came out on the top for me were the Yamaha 667 (a smaller belled brass horn upon which two of the five finalists overall were playing on [I think– or possibly other horns so similar that they looked like Yamahas at a distance, such as the horn in this photo] and the Conn 8DR (the rose brass version of the large belled Conn 8D). They have gone to the top of my list in terms of cheaper horns I recommend to people.
The other thing I would say is those Mozart concertos really are great music–I heard 51 Mozart first movements and really could listen to them all day. But I was surprised at how harsh sounding some contestants made them. Part of the problem was equipment choices and embouchure set ups, but in part they just had a not great concept of how to play Mozart. Mozart needs to be expressive, beautiful, and elegant. I heard several players who had an approach closer to what I would imagine at a DCI contest than at a horn competition. With Mozart, beauty and elegance will win the day.
TIP OF THE DAY: Plan out how you will look to the audience when you perform. At the competition many contestants it appeared had given little thought to how their positioning on stage would look to the audience and also plan out your bows, saw some pretty interesting stuff.
UPDATE: The results for 2009 are here.