Walter Lawson (1923-2007)
Walter Lawson is remembered for his warmth and caring as much as for the horns he built and repaired, and he led the way in research into what made horns sound beautiful. He contributed to the horn world in important ways and inspired many people with his energy, kindness, and creativity.
Lawson, the son of British parents, studied piano and horn as a youngster growing up in Binghamton NY. During World War II, he was a teletype mechanic for the Associated Press and served in the US Army Military Police and Signal Corps in the South Pacific. In 1947, he entered Peabody Conservatory, studying piano with Frederick Griesinger and horn with Jerry Knop and Ward Fearn. He was second horn in the Baltimore Symphony from 1949 to 1976. "He had an ability to match tone and intonation that was uncanny, and he made anyone he played with sound good and feel comfortable," says Bill Kendall, his lifelong friend, colleague in the Baltimore Symphony, and employee in the shop. "A true section player, he was always in 'support mode' on stage as well as off."
Lawson began working as an instrument repairman in 1949 at Ted's Musicians Shop and opened his own shop (Lawson Brass Instrument Repair Company) in 1956. His reputation as an expert repair technician and custom mouthpiece maker spread quickly, and many leading horn players sough his expertise and support. A fascination for improving horn mouthpieces led to his development of a mouthpiece kit with interchangeable rims, cups, throats, and back-bores that had over 12,000 possibilities! This allowed hornists to experiment and perfect a truly custom mouthpiece, which Walter would then produce. This led to studies of the lead-pipe, and by the early 1970s, Lawson was making custom pipes of his own design for installation on stock horns with great success. He then moved to investigating the properties of alloys and hardness of bell flares.
When he left the Baltimore Symphony, he moved to Boonsboro MD and in 1980 formed Lawson Brass Instruments with his sons Bruce, Duane, and Paul. Research and development of custom parts continued with modifications to existing instruments and production of the first Lawson horns in 1981. The Lawson Team continued to make acoustic and mechanical innovations, and the company thrived, producing many different models of double and descant horns as well as mouthpieces and custom parts.
The input of many professional players, including Barry Tuckwell (who lived nearby), was essential to their work, and Lawson equipment can now be found in the ranks of orchestras and on recital stages throughout the world, used by professionals, amateurs, and students alike. Walter Lawson retired in 2006 and the family sold the company to Kendall Betts, who carries on the Lawson tradition in New Hampshire.
Lawson exhibited his horns at international and regional workshops, often giving presentations that helped open communication between hornists and makers. He was a member of the IHS Advisory Council from 1977-1983 and elected an IHS Honorary Member in 2001. Tributes appear in the October 2007 issue of The Horn Call.
Paul Mansur (1926-2009)
Paul Mansur has been dedicated to the horn, to education, and to the IHS. The success of The Horn Call and a scholarship in his name assure his legacy with the IHS.
Paul was born in Oklahoma in 1926 and began playing horn in the Wewoka High School Band. He graduated from the Oklahoma Military Academy and entered the US Navy in 1944, serving in the Philippines. On discharge in 1946, he began studies in civil engineering at the University of Oklahoma, but then changed to music, completing degrees in theory and horn in 1951, followed by a master's degree in education from Arizona State College in 1953. After teaching in public schools for six years, he earned a doctorate in Music Education at the University of Oklahoma.
While working on his doctoral dissertation, Paul was Director of Music Therapy at Central State Griffin Memorial Hospital. "I count the experience as one of the best learning experiences and most satisfying job of my life along with being the poorest paid position of my career."
Paul began his 25 years at Southeast Oklahoma State University (SOSU) in Durant OK in 1969 as Chairman of the Music Department and retired in 1990 as Dean of the School of Arts and Letters; he is now Dean Emeritus.
Paul's playing experience includes the Oklahoma City Symphony (as an undergraduate), the Phoenix Symphony (as a master's student), and principal horn in the Sherman (TX) Symphony for 20 years while at SOSU (including transporting SOSU students).
During his years at SOSU, Paul was a representative to committees and conventions of the state association of college music departments, the Music Educators National Association, and the Jazz Educators Association. SOSU engaged in a thorough self-study and became an accredited full member of the National Association of Schools of Music during his tenure. He also preached for the Blue Church of Christ and later with the Utica congregation.
Paul has contributed immeasurably to the IHS since its inception. He served as the third Editor of The Horn Call for 17 years, from 1976 to 1993. During this era he was an ex-officio member of the Advisory Council and afterward served for two three-year terms as an Advisory Council member. From 1976 through 1999 he was the "corporate memory" of the IHS. In addition to his editorship, he contributed many articles to The Horn Call, including workshop reports, interviews, profiles, recording and book reviews, and the column "Mansur's Answers." He was elected an IHS Honorary Member in 2003.
Paul was further honored by the establishment of the Paul Mansur Scholarship, which provides opportunities for full-time students attending the IHS international symposium to receive a lesson from a world renowned artist or teacher (a featured artist or Advisory Council member) and a one-year IHS membership.
Paul and his wife, Norma, moved to Tennessee in 1995 to be near family.
Valeriy Polekh (1918-2007)
Valeriy Vladimirovich Polekh was one of the leading Soviet horn players and teachers of his generation. He sang on his instrument, playing with lightness and mastery of technique. He led in the development of Soviet orchestral and solo wind playing and wrote magnificent pieces and exercises for the horn. He was known as an interpreter of the horn miniature.
Polekh was born in Moscow in 1918. Music was an important part of his family's life; he attended the Bolshoi as a child and played a balalaika at home. Polekh studied at the October Revolution Musical Technical School with Vasily Nickolaevich Solodyev and Anton Aleksandrovich Shetnikov, both members of the Bolshoi. In 1936 he played in the chamber theatre and gave his solo debut; the next year he studied at the Moscow Conservatory with Ferdinand Eckert, a Czech who had studied at the Prague Conservatory and settled in Moscow after a tour with an Austrian orchestra. The following year Polekh auditioned for the radio orchestra and became assistant principal. However, being drawn to opera, the next year he auditioned for the Bolshoi Theater and was accepted. The following year (1939), he began his compulsory service in the Red Army, playing in the Moscow army headquarters orchestra.
Polekh won the All-Soviet Union wind instrument solo competition in 1941 (while still in the army and on a borrowed horn), and in 1949 he won first prize at an international solo competition in Budapest when at a Festival of Youth and Students in Hungary with a Youth Symphonic Orchestra from Moscow.
Polekh was the inspiration for Gliere to write his concerto for horn, and Polekh gave the first performance in Leningrad in 1951 with Gliere conducting the Leningrad Radio Symphony Orchestra. The concerto is dedicated to Polekh, and Polekh wrote a cadenza that is in the style of the concerto and most often performed today.
Polekh toured with the Bolshoi to Covent Garden in London. He made the acquaintance of the horn players of the theater, who presented him with the music for the Britten Serenade. Polekh gave the first Russian performance of the Serenade in 1965 at the Moscow Conservatory.
Polekh played principal horn at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow for 34 years and taught at the Moscow Conservatory beginning in 1981. He published a horn method and edited the Mozart horn concertos.
Polekh was elected an Honorary Member in 2002. Through the intercession of James Decker, his detailed autobiography (Your Valeriy Polekh, translated by David Gladen) is serialized in The Horn Call beginning in the February 2007 issue.
Verne Reynolds (1926-2011)
Verne Reynolds is famous for his technical proficiency, his many publications (including technically difficult etudes), and his inspiring teaching that has promoted technical development. His students play in orchestras around the world and teach in major universities, and his teaching has influenced professional horn playing as few others have.
Reynolds was born in 1926 in Lyons KS and moved when young to Lindsborg, where Bethany College made its faculty available to the townspeople. He began the study of piano at age eight with Arvid Wallin, who Reynolds considers to be his most influential teacher, and also sang in a church choir, directed by Wallin, through college. He started the horn at age 13 when the high school band director handed him an instrument and gave him private lessons.
Reynolds went into the Navy after high school, playing piano in a dance band and sometimes horn in a military band. In 1946 he went to the Cincinnati Conservatory, studying horn with Gustav Albrecht, who was in his last year with the Cincinnati Symphony. Albrecht prepared Reynolds for an audition for the symphony, and Reynolds got the job, at age 20. He switched his major from piano to composition.
Reynolds completed his degree in composition from the Cincinnati Conservatory in 1950 and a master's at the University of Wisconsin in 1951. He attended the Royal College of Music in London on a Fulbright grant in 1953-54, where he studied with Frank Probyn in a horn class. Dennis Brain occasionally sat in on the class and sometimes made comments and suggestions. "One of my prized possessions is a copy of Mozart's fourth concerto with Dennis Brain's markings on it after he coached me during one of Frank Probyn's classes," says Reynolds.
Reynolds performed as a member of the Cincinnati Symphony (1947-50), in the American Woodwind Quintet, and as principal horn of the Rochester Philharmonic (1959-68).
Reynolds was horn professor at the Eastman School of Music for 36 years (until 1995) and previously taught at the Cincinnati Conservatory (1949-50), University of Wisconsin (1950-53), and Indiana University (1954-59). A founding member of the Eastman Brass Quintet, he recorded and traveled extensively with that group with a mission to raise the artistic level of the brass quintet. "We try to get an integrity and an artistic level that would come as close as we can to the finest string quartets that you can imagine."
Reynolds started composing in college, and his first published work, Theme and Variations for brass choir, won the 1950 Thor Johnson Brass Award. He has published over 60 works (compositions, transcriptions, etudes, methods) and has received many awards and commissions. His compositional style falls into three periods: (1) influenced by Hindemith (50s and early 60s); (2) twelve-tone (late 60s and early 70s); and (3) from the mid-70s, freely using every technique he knows.
At the 1994 IHS symposium at Kansas City, former students honored Reynolds by performing a number of his works, with Reynolds providing commentary. In 2005, John Clark oversaw the recording of all 48 Etudes at the Northeast Horn Workshop, also a tribute to his former teacher. Reynolds comments, "I think if you'll take a careful look at the etudes, you'll find that each one has a kind of central purpose. It's been very satisfying to see the attitude about the book change over the years. I think they are beginning to serve their purpose."
His book The Horn Handbook, published by Amadeus Press in 1996, stresses many of the themes of his teaching - memorizing, methodical practice to overcome limitations, and thorough preparation, including score study. He was elected an IHS Honorary Member in 1994.
Willie Ruff has been one of the pioneers of the horn in jazz, as a duo has performed at thousands of schools and colleges, and has been an international ambassador of music, from Africa to Russia and China.
Willie was born in 1931 in Sheffield AL, which is in the area known as Muscle Shoals, famous for freshwater mussels, W.C. Handy, Helen Keller, and music recording studios. Willie was one of eight children, and his father left the family before Willie was a year old. His mother died from tuberculosis when Willie was 13.
The schools were segregated at this time, and Willie attended a poor school for blacks, but the teachers valued music. Willie remembers a visit by W.C. Handy, who played a trumpet and explained his music to the students, and later the school had a part-time band director. Willie started singing as a child and learned drumming from a neighbor and piano at church. He also learned to play the "hambone" - using hands against parts of the body such as chest and thighs, a technique developed by slaves when their traditional drums where outlawed.
After his mother died, Willie went to live with his father and attend high school in Evansville IN. The next year, in 1946, at age 14, he lied about his age, forged his father's signature, and joined the Army on the expectation of developing a career as a drummer. When the band had too many percussionists and the horns (playing mellophones - "peck horns") were the weakest section, Willie volunteered to learn to play the horn. He learned on his own from an Oscar Franz method book, practicing in the boiler room.
When Willie was 16 years old and playing in the band at segregated Lockbourne Air force Base near Columbus OH, he started taking lessons from Abe Kniaz, first horn in the Columbus Philharmonic Orchestra. He discovered that he had been using incorrect fingerings and soon improved his technique, musical knowledge, and other knowledge under Kniaz's guidance. It was while stationed at Lockbourne that Willie met his future duo partner, Dwike Mitchell. Willie also learned to play bass at Dwike's urging and earned his high school equivalency diploma.
Willie left the service to attend Yale University, from which he holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Upon receiving his master's degree in 1954, he tried to win a position with an American symphony orchestra, but found that black musicians were not yet welcome in those ranks. Instead, he accepted a position with the Tel Aviv Symphony. Not long before he was to leave, he happened to watch The Ed Sullivan Show and saw not only Lionel Hampton's band but, to his surprise, friend Dwike Mitchell at the piano. After contacting his old friend, Willie was invited to join the Hampton band and so he never went to Israel. In 1955, the two friends left Hampton to form the Mitchell-Ruff Duo, with Willie on horn and bass.
Since 1955, the Duo has recorded, performed, and lectured on jazz extensively in the United States, Asia, Africa, and Europe. It had the advantage, Willie recalls, of being the least expensive group in jazz, and it was therefore booked as the second act with the best and most expensive bands of the day - Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie - in Birdland, the Embers, the Village Vanguard, Basin Street East and other leading nightclubs. They were all riding the crest of one of the most popular eras of jazz - an era that would soon end with the advent of rock and the dominance of television.
In the late 1950s they toured widely for a group called Young Audiences, playing and demonstrating jazz for students in elementary schools and high schools, and since the mid-1960s their main format has been and still is the college concert. They give 60 or 70 a year on college campuses. It was the Mitchell-Ruff Duo that introduced jazz to the Soviet Union, in 1959, playing and teaching at conservatories in Leningrad, Moscow, Kiev, Yalta, Sochi, and Riga; and it was the Mitchell-Ruff Duo that took jazz to China, in 1981, playing and teaching at conservatories in Shanghai and Peking. Before the first trip Willie taught himself Russian, his seventh language, and before the second trip he learned Mandarin Chinese, thereby enabling himself to explain to his listeners, in their own language, the roots and lineage of American jazz, with Dwike demonstrating on the piano.
Willie joined the faculty at Yale in 1971, and has taught Music History, courses on Ethnomusicology, an interdisciplinary Seminar on Rhythm, and a course on Instrumental Arranging. He is founding Director of the Duke Ellington Fellowship Program at Yale, a community-based organization sponsoring world-class artists mentoring and performing with Yale students and young musicians from the New Haven Public School System. The program brings the giants of black American music to New Haven throughout the year to teach at Yale and in the city's predominantly black public schools: singers like Odetta and Bessie Jones, arrangers like Benny Carter, tap dancers like Honi Coles, and instrumentalists like Charlie Mingus and Dizzy Gillespie.
Willie's 1992 memoir, A Call to Assembly, was awarded the Deems Taylor ASCAP award. He has also written widely on Paul Hindemith, one of his teachers at Yale, and on his professional association with the American composers Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Strayhorn wrote a suite for horn and piano for Willie and Dwike. His collaborations with Yale geologist John Rodgers on the musical astronomy of the 17th-century scientist, Johannes Kepler, resulted in an important "planetarium for the ear" recording and published widely in international astronomy journals. Willie has also written on music and dance in Russia, and on the introduction of American Jazz in China. Film is also an important teaching tool to him, and he has visited the pygmies of the Central African Republic, the master drummers of Bali, the tribesmen of Senegal, and various other remote societies to make films about their drum music and language.
Willie was elected an IHS Honorary Member in 2001. In 2005 he and Dwike performed a rousing concert at the Northeast Horn Workshop in Purchase NY with Ruff's former teacher, Abe Kniaz, in the audience. Willie said, "How many people perform a concert at age 73 and have their teacher in the audience?" Willie remembers being told that music doesn't mean a thing unless it tells a story, and that's still the way he plays it.
Frøydis Ree Wekre
"Through a long and distinguished career as one of the world's leading horn players, as a professor and celebrated cultural personality, Frøydis's work has been of tremendous value to the art of horn playing and its repertoire of contemporary music. Her distinctive tone and communicative abilities have captured audiences and composers all over the world, and numerous works have been written especially for her."
Frøydis Ree Wekre was born in 1941 in Oslo into a musical family. She studied piano and violin (playing in the Norwegian Broadcasting Junior Orchestra) before taking up horn at the age of 17, having become fascinated by the sound of the horn and the idea of having her own voice in the orchestra.
Her horn studies continued in Sweden, Russia, and the US. Her principal teachers were Wilhelm Lanzky-Otto and Vitali Bujanovsky. Frøydis first won a position with the Norwegian Opera Orchestra, then in 1961 she joined the Oslo Philharmonic and became co-principal in 1965. In 1991, she retired from the orchestra to be professor of horn and wind chamber music at the Norwegian Academy of Music, where she already held a part-time position.
Her role as a teacher has been important to Frøydis, and dozens of her students play in major orchestras around the world. She has been offered professorships in several countries. She received the Lindeman Prize in 1986 for her contributions as a teacher. With Nordic colleagues, she started the NORDHORNPED teaching group, whose activities include studying their own teaching on video. With Academy colleagues, she has been forging connections with music conservatories in the US.
Renowned as both teacher and performer, Frøydis has given master classes and workshops throughout Europe and North America. Her book On Playing the Horn Well has been translated into several languages, and she has contributed articles to various publications, including The Horn Call. Sometimes she demonstrates playing a scale with the main tuning slides pushed all the way in, then pulled all the way out; the scale is in tune at A=440 in both instances, showing that you can play in tune no matter the horn. She advocates practicing lip and mouthpiece buzzing while waiting for a bus, even if it might be considered a bit eccentric; "If people don't know you, it doesn't matter what they think of you, and if they do know you, well, then it's not a surprise."
Her CDs showcase her talents and include many works that have been dedicated to her or that she has commissioned, notably works by Andrea Clearfield and Norwegian composers such as Trygve Madsen and Wolfgang Plagge.
Frøydis is named after an Icelandic saga character; in the midst of war, her mother wanted to give her the name of a strong person. Her name is now instantly recognized in the horn world, and she prefers to be addressed by her given name.
In 1973, Frøydis sponsored IHS memberships for Peter Damm and Vitaly Bujanovsky, both of whom lived behind the Iron Curtain and were unable to send membership dues to the US. In 1976 the effort became formalized into the WestEast (WE) project (renamed the Friendship Project in 2000) to support members in countries where the economy or currency restrictions make regular memberships impossible.
Frøydis served on the IHS Advisory Council from 1974-1978 and 1993-2000 and as IHS President from 1998-2000, and she was appointed an IHS Honorary Member in 1994. She was co-host of the International Horn Symposium in Banff in 1998 and has participated in symposiums from the earliest days as performer, lecturer, and master, often humorous and always inspiring. She is famous for her whistling prowess, a highlight at otherwise business-like IHS General Meetings.
Jerome Ashby (1956-2007)
Jerome A. Ashby was known as a member of the New York Philharmonic but revered even more as a teacher, mentor, and human being. Many colleagues and students hold him in the greatest affection. He died on December 26, 2007 after a long struggle with prostate cancer. He said that his last year, when he drew closer than ever to family and friends, was the best of his life.
Jerome (known equally as Jerome or Jerry) was a native of Charleston SC. He began his studies in the New York City public schools and graduated from the High School of the Performing Arts. He then attended The Juilliard School, where he was a student of former Philharmonic principal horn James Chambers.
After graduating from Juilliard in 1976, Jerome became principal horn in the UNAM Orchestra in Mexico City. There he met and married his wife, Patricia Cantu. He began his tenure with the New York Philharmonic as Associate Principal Horn in 1979 at the invitation of Zubin Mehta and made his Philharmonic solo debut in April 1982.
In 1989 Jerome played the fourth horn solo in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony when Leonard Bernstein conducted members of the New York and Berlin Philharmonics in a historic broadcast to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall.
W. Marshall Sealy, a free-lancer in New York, recalled sharing day care with Jerome when they were about 10 years old. Later they formed an all-black horn quartet with Greg Williams and Bill Warnick. "Jerome was my inspiration, my support toward being the best horn player I could be, my role model, my motivation, and my closest friend," says Marshall. Julie Landsman, principal horn at the Metropolitan Opera and a colleague of Jerome's at Juilliard, remarked, "At the funeral service, I was struck by the fact that almost everyone there referred to Jerome as 'my best friend.' The number of 'best friends' Jerome had is a sure testament to his generous heart."
Marshall also commented, "Maybe he was not aware of it, but because of his high standards for excellence and his first-class achievements, he opened many professional doors for other African-American horn players." Julie recalled, "Our endless discussions about our students were invaluable to both of us. We shared a deep mutual concern for our students - a love, really, as they became our children - and I treasure the memories of these times with him." Alan Spanjer, second horn in the Philharmonic, recounted, "Jerry was completely committed to teaching and his students. Once we were talking about how busy he was with teaching so much, and he said to me, 'That's what it's all about, isn't it.'"
Erik Ralske, third horn in the Philharmonic, said, "Jerome taught me a lot about the horn and about life - sometimes by example, sometimes with concise, but gentle words, and often with his humor. His ardent love of music and the horn remained a constant inspiration, and he was unfazed by the trials of professional life." Howard Wall, fourth horn in the Philharmonic, commented, "One of the things I loved most about his playing was his beautiful slurs. He was one of the hardest-working horn players I knew."
An active recitalist and chamber musician, Jerome appeared at music festivals around the world. He performed with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and with New York Philharmonic ensembles. He also played in the Gateway Festival at Eastman, a gathering of black musicians, including the Bach Brandenburg No. 1 and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
Jerome was a faculty member of The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, The Curtis Institute, and the Aspen Music Festival School. He was elected an IHS Honorary Member in 2007.
Extended tributes to Jerome appear in the May 2008 issue of The Horn Call.
A. David Krehbiel
David Krehbiel has been a quintessential orchestral horn player, and he is passing on that experience in clinics, a CD, conducting, and teaching. In addition to playing principal horn in the San Francisco Symphony for 26 years, Dave was Chair of the Brass Department at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and is a founding member of the Summit Brass as a player and conductor.
Dave was born in 1936. He took his first music lessons on the trumpet in his hometown of Reedley CA. He was in the eighth grade when he heard his future teacher, James Winter, play, and from then on, he knew that the sound of the horn was the sound he wanted to make. "Recently, I unpacked a horn I hadn't used for a while and out came this smell of an old brass instrument, moldy and musty. Instantly I was back in school again, opening a case for the first time, seeing this magic thing I was going to make sounds with."
He spent three years at Fresno State and played with the newly formed Fresno Philharmonic. During these years, he spent summers pumping gas at Yosemite National Park. "Every night I would take my horn up to Mirror Lake. The sound would float across the lake and reflect off Half Dome and seem to fill the whole valley. This was Horn Heaven."
His teacher suggested that he transfer to Northwestern University in his fourth year to study with Philip Farkas, who was then principal horn of the Chicago Symphony and had been Winter's teacher. A few months later, he won a position as assistant principal with the Chicago Symphony and remained there for five years, being elevated to the position of co-principal horn under Fritz Reiner. He left Chicago to become principal horn of the Detroit Symphony and nine years later, in 1972, went back to California as principal horn of the San Francisco Symphony.
While with the Detroit Symphony, Dave and Tom Bacon (also a member of the orchestra) played in a rock group, Symphonic Metamorphosis, which recorded twice for London Records and played a concert with the Detroit Symphony.
In addition to his position at San Francisco Conservatory, Dave has been on the faculty at DePaul University, Wayne State University, San Francisco State, Fresno State, Northwestern University, and most recently at Colburn School in LA. He is a member and conductor of Summit Brass and Bay Brass. He has taught and conducted at the Music Academy of the West for ten years. He has conducted members of the San Francisco Symphony in special concerts, including a performance commemorating the first anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake. In 1998, the National Academy of Recording Art and Sciences presented him with a special award in honor of his many musical contributions to the community, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music named him Professor of the Year. He is also involved with the educational activities of the New World Symphony in Miami.
Dave has been a soloist with many orchestras. His CD, Orchestral Excerpts for Horn on the Orchestral Pro Series with Summit Brass, has been a boon to horn students everywhere.
Dave continues to teach, play, and conduct, including participating in IHS symposiums. He has contributed articles to The Horn Call and was interviewed for the February 1997 issue. He was elected an IHS Honorary Member in 2008.