This is the final article I will be posting from the archive of the original Horn Notes Blog, originally dated 7/17/05 and posted with the title “Oh ****”
Any horn player who is any good more than likely has a bit of a perfectionist streak in them. We just hate to make mistakes. This is a part of what drives us to work hard, but it can make us and the people around us a but nutty.
In relation to this it is very easy to develop a habit of physically displaying your displeasure with your own mistakes. I have been reminded of this yet again this summer in Brevard.
I recall a time when I was playing second horn for the summer of 1987 with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (a great experience) when the first hornist for part of the summer, Peter Kurau (then assistant principal horn, now full time at Eastman) let me gently know that I needed to be aware of this and nip a bad habit in the bud. I had a habit when I missed things to do something with my left hand, I believe something like clenching it and sometimes hitting my bell. Try it, it feels sort of good in a way but it potentially distracts other players; you have to learn to control yourself. (David Angus, third horn in the RPO, was principal horn for the second half of the summer; Rebecca Root took off to play at Chautauqua, and Eli Epstein had left to join the Cleveland Orchestra).
It is tough, but also try not to say critical things under your breath. This is really common, and I will most likely never be perfect in this area. Not that it makes it OK, but as an aside I am told in fact that you can hear David Krehbiel say things under his breath after certain cuts in his orchestral excerpt CD. Keep aware of this, try to keep it in control.
I remember too, in that same period when I played a lot with the RPO, Eli Epstein (then about to leave the section to perform second horn in Cleveland) told me to be careful about dumping out water when the first horn was playing alone. This is great advice. We kind of get in our own little zone and don’t realize that we are not only potentially distracting people but also potentially impacting our future work! People always want to play next to someone that makes them feel comfortable who makes it easy for them to play their best.
Speaking of people comfortable to play with, Jean Martin-Williams (professor of horn, University of Georgia) is leaving us here today, taking the rest of the summer off from Brevard. She will be missed. When I arrived in 1999 I was “the new guy” and every week that I have been here Jean has also been here playing second or third horn and keeping things running smoothly in general. Some colleagues along the way will make playing tough either intentionally or unintentionally, but colleagues like Jean make it easy.
With that the archive is officially empty! The Horn Notes Blog was one of the first if not the first horn blog, and we have aimed to include the best of that content in Horn Matters.