This question was so beautifully written that I will leave it exactly as it came in:
Hi there! I’m a Junior in high school, and I’m the first horn at my school. When I hear movie soundtracks, I get the chills from all the exemplary horn parts. It would be so cool to be involved in such incredible music! I don’t really know what I want to do in my future really, but do you have any words of advice for me? If I choose to pursue that path, how can I be great? How hard is it to get there? Thank you!
How to make it. This topic also came up for me recently in a Q and A session at the Western Michigan University Horn Day as well. It has no simple answer, but it is worth a shot.
It is not easy to make it in the field. Words that come to mind first for me include persistence and stubbornness. And goose bumps from getting to perform “exemplary horn parts” are a part of what keeps us going, as was a topic in this prior article, Silverado, and Why We Play the Horn.
My own perspective is biased of course by my experiences and personal path. I was not a star horn player in high school and started college as a music business major at a small college. But there was a point in my sophomore year that I decided that if I was ever going to try to be a pro horn player now was the time and I got down to work. Changed my embouchure, started taking extra lessons, attended summer festivals, etc. Went to a good grad school, worked hard! I look back and I must have been a very focused student. I made a lot of progress and advanced past people that were much better players than me in high school and early college.
There was a point also looking back that a mentor actually tried to discourage me in music, as an undergrad. Which at the time totally went over my head, I was too focused on reaching a high level on the horn.
Another friend has worked frequently with younger, very high level students, and one point made along the same lines is that just because you are great out of high school and go to a great school does not mean you will make it. You still have to work hard and be persistent.
Not long ago I was talking to a retired, adult amateur player. He still plays and I suspect was quite good in high school. But his career goals turned to the sciences and he had a good career in that field. Sometimes talking to amateurs such as him I get the feeling that they actually enjoy music more than some (perhaps many) pros who have bigger careers as performers but are sort of browned out on them. For the amateur playing horn can be an exciting hobby, but for the pro it is actually work (but hopefully still enjoyable work).
Where this all heads is I don’t have any firm answers as to how to make it, each path is different, but hopefully the above gives you a bit more to think about. I personally feel very blessed to have had the opportunities I have had and to be where I am in the field still. It is the sort of thing you do need to talk over with mentors and give serious thought and prayer. A final thought being that the discipline and effort put into horn study will pay off whatever you ultimately do in life. Good luck!