A look at the IVASI Horn Club Starter Kit

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IVASI (Interactive Video Audition System International) is a product that should be familiar to horn teachers out there, as it has been available for many years and has been demonstrated at countless horn workshops and events. I’ve had students who used it at other schools and enjoyed the experience of using it to read famous orchestral works with a recorded orchestra and a smiling conductor on video. By the same token, a brief Twitter survey would suggest that many horn players have never even heard of this product.

I’m not sure when it was first introduced, but it was developed by the late James Decker and was available for purchase by 1994, as seen in this review by Brian Kilp in Cornucopia. At that time, it was known as International Video Audition Service Inc., and was reported to be in use at six schools. From his review,

Here’s how IVASI works: A conductor is videotaped conducting to a CD. The video is replayed on a large television facing musicians who watch a score and the screen, listen through speakers and sound monitors, and play along. If they are in tune and rhythmically accurate, they won’t hear their voices on the recording, as their own playing covers it. They hear the missing instruments, all those no one in the room is playing. One player or any number of players can take part in a session.

This system allows players to focus on any aspect of the excerpts, in context, with opportunity for learning together as a section, and matching intonation with the video. More repertoire can be covered than with most school orchestras, and in a more controlled environment.

That review does not mention the price, but my impression is it was expensive back then and you needed exotic things like a large television! And actually, it is a product I had never purchased until the end of our spring semester and have not yet used in my teaching. My reason for not purchasing previously was I preferred to conduct and lead the section excerpts directly rather than use the video, drawing on my experiences as an orchestral hornist.

What swayed me to buy now were the positive reviews from students and also the very affordable price of the IVASI Horn Club Starter Kit, it sells for $89.95 and includes the video conductor DVD for:

Strauss: Don Juan, Till Eulenspiegel
Stravinsky: Firebird Suite, Dance Infernal
Prokofiev: At the Grave, Romeo & Juliet
Wagner: The Rhine Journey
Tchaikovsky: No. 2, mvt. 2
Shostakovich: No. 5, mvt. 1

Besides the PDF music for the above, what really swayed me to purchase were bonus discs that include the Los Angeles Horn Club recording(s) and PDF music files for:

Hyde: Color Contrasts (8)
Raksin: A Song After Sundown (4)
Mendelssohn: Scherzo (6)
Gabrieli: Sonata Pian e Forte (8)
Palestrina: O chi Splendor(4)
Rossini: Fanfare & Chase (8)
di Lasso: Quartet (8)
Palestrina: Stabat Mater (8)
Raksin: Morning Revisied, 12, 4, 2, perc
Mozart: Ave Verum Corpus(4)
Garcia: Variations on a Five Note Theme (10)
Lo Presti: Suite for Eight Horns

We just performed the Garcia this past year and it is a really effective work that is not performed nearly often enough. I was thinking in fact that this work was never published (I had a copy of the manuscript copy in the Eastman library), but it is in fact available in a nicely typeset version. Several of the other horn ensemble works on the PDF CD I am very anxious to do next year here at ASU; this is a great bonus item.

I’ll wait until I try the system out with students in the fall before buying any more of the performance DVDs (they cover much of the main orchestral literature for horn), but if you are looking for something to spice up your own summer practice, this could be the thing to do it. And if you want to give it a try first, there is a YouTube channel with sample videos here:

https://www.youtube.com/user/thevideoconductor

University of Horn Matters