An Event to Consider Entering: the IHCA


Every two years a horn competition is held, one that has been around for a while, the International Horn Competition of America.

This is an event for any horn student or younger professional to seriously consider entering. I entered it as a grad student (winning second prize in the University Division in 1989 — it was then known as the American Horn Competition) and later served as a judge (University Division, 2005). Thus, I am familiar with the event, but I believe many Horn Matters readers do not know much of the background of the competition or the opportunity it presents still. As background, from the IHCA website,

The International Horn Competition of America (formerly the American Horn Competition) came into being because two people wanted to promote a higher standard for US horn soloists.

In 1975 Elliott Higgins (a Cleveland area hornist and conductor) and George McCracken (horn designer for King Musical Instruments) attended the IHS Symposium near Montreal and observed a contrast between American horn soloists who sat and played from music and European soloists who stood and performed from memory.

Higgins and McCracken decided to create an American solo horn competition, named the Heldenleben International Horn Competition. Its goals were to showcase American horn soloists and encourage horn professors to teach the solo literature in addition to standard etudes and orchestral excerpts.

American Horn Competition 1989The first competition was actually held in 1976, and it has continued since then typically every other year. Two tips that they actually hint at right there in the above quote, if you enter — and want to be a contender — play standing, and memory is always the best for this type of competition. Their website has much more info on the rep and other requirements. A final note being that the judges will be very available for feedback after you play, there is much to gain from entering even if you don’t advance.

I still have my comment sheets from 1989, as seen above photo. It is always interesting to look at them again after the passing of so many years. And for a few more tips if you are entering, this article has some thoughts from my original HTML Horn Notes Blog from right after when I judged the event in 2005.

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