My Trip to Kalamazoo

The 33rd Annual International Horn Society Symposium, June 2001

Western Michigan University

Well, I didn't take a lot of pictures, but I had a very interesting week. Horn workshops can be pretty intense, almost an overload of information and interactions. Personally, I can only go to one of these things every few years. There were concerts, exhibits, master classes, jam sessions- just about anything. But the strangest feeling for me is to look around at the 700 or so people wandering the halls and sitting in the concert halls and realizing that they are all horn players. We are used to hanging out with large groups of musicians in our orchestras and our schools, but here, everywhere you turn is another horn player!

I had planned to have my book ready to sell and I had hopes at one time of even having a custom mouthpiece to promote, but circumstances kept me from achieving those goals. I did take preliminary versions of the book to show people though.

The best part of the week for me is usually just the people I run into. After a long symphony season, I usually don't feel like playing much. I spend my time checking out all the horns, music, accessories and various other things on display. In the course of this I always run into people I know who I never see otherwise and meet lots of new people who I will probably not see again until the next one of these I go to.

Actually, I had a wonderful reunion with one of my childhood friends, Robert Dickow. We used to play duets (Mozart) when we were in junior high school. We even started our own horn club. Bob, who is also a terrific composer, teaches at the University of Idaho so we don't see each other a lot. We decided to share a hotel room, convinced that we would need the air conditioning as a respite from what is usually rather hot and humid Midwestern weather. Maybe we are just getting old. Looking for a little peace and quiet late at night instead of endless horn playing. As it turned out, it was overcast and even rainy most of the week. A real blessing. I'll probably stay in the dorms next time just to get back into the real feel of a horn seminar.

One nice thing about the annual symposiums in recent years is that they have many more artists featured over the course of the week. In the old days, you mostly just saw the big names of the international scene. Now you will hear players from all corners of the horn playing world. Many of these players are virtually unknown outside their own areas but I am just completely impressed by the quality of playing that is out there. I think it also sends a better message to the younger players. Namely, that you don't have to be a Barry Tuckwell or Michael Thompson to be a great player in your own right.

The Greers of Moosewood fame were one of the first booths in the big exhibit room. A lot of pros passed by here looking for the latest in mouthpieces and custom accessories.

There was a nice outdoor amphitheatre for concerts by local horn choirs- yes they do have that sort of thing in the rest of the world. Why don't we have more of this in California? The performances were usually in between the main events indoors. So there was something going on just about every minute of the day.

Dave Krehbiel helps a young player get a grip on audition repertoire during a master class.My advice to younger players: learn the repertoire, not just the excerpts. Know the pieces, you might even like them. If you know the pieces its all right there in front of you. Get the style, the mood, the emotion of the music. Then put all that technique you have learned to good use. Play music, not just notes. Some people still care.

Arkady Shilkloper, second from left, checks out the latest in telescoping plastic alphorns. Don't laugh, they sound good and they're a lot easier to carry around. Later in the week, on his recital, he played jazz riffs on the alphorns in an amazing display of ingenious use of the harmonic series.

Paul Navarro, right, a true horn nut if there ever was one (in the best sense of the expression), worked the symposium floor. Paul, a fine player in his own right, is also an expert custom repair person, a horn wheeler-dealer and has more horn stuff in his house than anyone I know. At one point he took a minute to straighten the ring on my slightly out of round screw bell Paxman with his bare hands. "That's the best I can do without tools" he said, as I tested the fit. The previously cantankerous threads slid together easily for a change. It would not need further work.

Another big highlight of the trip for me was seeing my old friend Milan Yancich (center). While I was not his student when I was at Eastman, we became friends and I got to play in his Saturday morning wind octet. I was glad to see that he was still going strong although he is going to officially retire from his publishing business soon. During and after a successfull playing and teaching career, he brought out many interesting publications of important horn repertoire. His recent book, "An Orchestra Musician's Odyssey- A View from the Rear", chronicles a self made career that should inspire all of us with his sheer determination. That's my friend Bob on the left. Several of his compositions were on sale at the symposium.

And what is a symposium without a banquet. We all had to pay tribute to Johnny Pherigo, our host, who ran one of the smoothest symposiums that I have ever seen. They really seem to know how to do this stuff in the midwest. I'm impressed.

The final concert featured various horn choirs of the professionals and the participants. The highlights were the American and European players trying to hold their own or even out do their British colleagues doing "London Horn Sound" arrangements including an amazing version of Tico Tico with John Clark and Arkady Shilkloper as dueling hornists. I just wish I could have made a music video out of it. MTV here we come.The next day I had a long wait for my flight so I played volleyball with the French contingent and hung out in a dorm lobby and talked with some enthusiastic younger players about life in the big show. I'm sure they will be doing the same thing for their heirs 30 years from now.

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