Sarah Willis

Sarah WillisSarah Willis is an internationally renowned horn player, has been a member of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra since 2001, and is an acclaimed television and digital presenter. Travelling the world with her horn, she brings the best of classical music to a global audience.

Sarah was born in Maryland, USA and holds dual British and American citizenship. Her father’s work as a foreign correspondent took her family around the world and they lived in USA, Tokyo, and Moscow before moving to England when Sarah was 13. She began playing the horn in school at the age of 14, and attended the Royal College of Music Junior Department. She went on to study fulltime at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where her teachers included Anthony Halstead and Jeff Bryant.

Sarah later studied with Fergus McWilliam in Berlin, where she became second Horn in the Berlin State Opera under Daniel Barenboim in 1991. During this time, Sarah played as a guest with orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony, London Symphony, and the Sydney Symphony and performed worldwide as a soloist and in various chamber music ensembles.

In 2001, Sarah joined the Berlin Philharmonic, becoming the first female member of the brass section. As well as her work with the orchestra, she has recorded the Brahms Horn Trio, the Rosetti Double Horn Concerto, and the albums Opera! and Four Corners! with the Berlin Philharmonic Horns. Her solo album, Horn Discoveries, was released in 2014.

Sarah is involved in many of the Berlin Philharmonic education projects and especially enjoys creating and presenting their Family Concerts. She interviews conductors and soloists for the Digital Concert Hall, and in 2011 she presented live to 33 million viewers during the Final Concert of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. Sarah is passionate about music education and makes full use of digital technology and social media to reach audiences worldwide. She was chosen to be one of the first testers of Google Glass and used this experience to see how new technology could be used in classical music.

Sarah runs a successful series of online interviews known as Horn Hangouts and is also a regular broadcaster and interviewer on television and online and fronts the classical music program Sarah´s Music for Deutsche Welle television.

Sarah was elected an IHS Honorary Member in 2021.

 Photo by Sebastian Haenel, 2018

William Scharnberg

scharnberg 400x500William (Bill) Scharnberg, distinguished performer and teacher, began attending International Horn Workshops in 1973, becoming a life member in 1975 and serving in many capacities over the years. He has inspired students and added to the horn literature with commissions.

Bill earned BM, MA, MFA, and DMA degrees from the University of Iowa. He studied with Paul Anderson at the University of Iowa, with summer lessons from Louis Stout and Philip Farkas. He joined the faculty of the University of North Texas in 1983 and retired in 2018 as a Regents Professor with a horn class of fifty students. Previously he had taught at Central Missouri State University (1973-74), Pacific Lutheran University (1975-77), the University of Oklahoma (1977-83), the Royal Academy of Music Stockholm (fall of 1987). At each of these institutions he was also a member of faculty woodwind and brass ensembles.

Fourteen students were mentored through the DMA degree, all of whom are either teaching at a university and/or performing in an orchestra, with two recently retired from universities. Over thirty students who did not pursue or finish the DMA degree won jobs in orchestras or at universities. Many more have become successful public-school teachers or pursued careers outside music. “I am honored to have had the privilege of working with so many talented students,” he says, “and I am proud of their individual achievements.”

Bill performed as principal horn of the Tri-City (now Quad-City) Orchestra, Tacoma Symphony, Flathead Festival Orchestra, Royal Opera Orchestra (Stockholm), Dallas Symphony, Dallas Ballet, Dallas Chamber Orchestra, Breckenridge Music Festival, Big Sky Orchestra, Intermountain Opera, and Dallas Opera (1984-2016), and has been principal horn of the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra since 2007. He has performed at international and regional horn conventions, in recital at universities, concerti with regional ensembles, as a chamber musician at festivals, and recorded on Crystal, EcoClassics, Centaur, and Klavier labels.

He commissioned and premiered works by Paul Chihara, David Maslanka, Cindy McTee, Anthony Plog, and Kim Scharnberg. His editions of 18th and 19th-century horn works were published by McCoy’s Horn Library.

Bill served the IHS as an Advisory Council member (1986-1992, 1999-2003), Workshop Coordinator (1981-1998), President (1990-1992), Music Review Editor (1981-2003), Editor of The Horn Call (2003-2020), and host of two IHS Horn Symposiums (1991, 2012). He was awarded the IHS Service Medal of Honor in 2017.

Nozomu Segawa

segawaNozomu Segawa’s service to the IHS has been significant in bridging gaps, especially language, with Japan and Asia in general during his two terms on the IHS Advisory Council (2006-2012) and since. He has participated in 16 IHS symposiums, often directing the Japan Horn Society horn ensemble, including in 2019 in Ghent. He has been executive director of the society for more than two decades.

Nozomu is a freelance horn player in Japan and professor at the Nippon Sport Science University. He teaches rhythm for athletes, including Olympic medalists. His dissertation “Effects of horn performance during outdoor education toward campers” (2013) was written from alphorn, conch, and hunting horn experience at the university’s annual summer camp and skiing camp. He also conducted research on the relationship between Intra-Oral Pressure and Flow-Velocity in Horn Playing (2003).

His compositions include Tekona Fanfare for three alphorns (2001), Fusehime for conch and alphorn (2006), A Girl and a Cross for horn and organ with choreography of an Okinawa folk dance (200&), and works for oboe and alphorn, horn and alphorn, and conch and alphorn.

Nozomu earned diplomas in horn with Kozo Moriyama at the University of Fine Arts and Music in Tokyo and with Otto Schmitz at the Hochschule fuer Musik in Munich. He was a contract member of the Orchestra of the Beethovenhalle and a member of the Classical Philharmonic, both in Bonn. He has translated (German to Japanese) masterclasses by teachers such as Peter Damm, Frøydis Ree Wekre, and Radovan Vlatković. He conducts junior, university, and city orchestras, represents the ensemble Chocolat Virtuoso Japan, and is a member of the horn/alphorn quartet Ensemble Forest.

Lowell Greer (1950-2022)

greer1Lowell Greer holds a unique place among the hornists of his generation. Known for his musicianship and versatility with or without valves, he has received critical acclaim and international recognition as an orchestral hornist, chamber musician, soloist, educator, and horn maker.

A Wisconsin native, Lowell began violin studies at age 4 and took up horn at age 12 due to a hand injury. His parents, both college professors, changed jobs several times, so Lowell had many horn teachers, the most notable being Ernani Angelucci of the Cleveland Orchestra. Lowell returned to Wisconsin to study with John Barrows at the University of Wisconsin and then pursued studies in Chicago with Helen Kotas, Frank Brouk, Dale Clevenger, and Ethel Merker. While in Chicago, he freelanced extensively, performing with the Chicago Civic Symphony, Lyric Opera of Chicago, American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, shows, recordings, and as extra horn with both the Chicago and Milwaukee Symphonies.

Lowell joined the Detroit Symphony in 1972 as assistant principal. In 1978, he accepted the position of principal horn of the Mexico City Philharmonic and began to pursue his solo career. In 1980, he moved to Europe to better pursue his natural horn interests, and performed in Belgium as guest principal horn of the Antwerp Philharmonic/Royal Flemish Orchestra. He returned to the US in 1984, where he served as principal horn of the Cincinnati Symphony until 1986. He also performed as principal of the Toledo Symphony from 1990-1997.

During this time, he won seven first prizes at six prestigious international horn competitions: Heldenleben (1977), Gian Battista Viotti, Vercelli (1978), Hubertus Jaachthoornfestival (1979), SACEM, Paris (1981), Jacques-Francois Gallay (1981), and American (1983, 1984).

As a soloist, Lowell performed on natural and modern horn with some fifty orchestras in the US, Canada, Mexico, and across Europe, not to mention his appearances at numerous chamber music venues. His extensive discography includes four CDs on Harmonium Mundi, including the Mozart Horn Concertos and Quintet, Brahms Horn Trio, and the Beethoven Sonata on natural horn, and a recording for Decca L’oiseau Lyre of the entire music of Mozart for winds performed on original instruments.

A dedicated scholar and educator, Lowell taught at Wheaton College, Oakland University, Interlochen Arts Academy, the School for Perfection in Mexico City, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Michigan, and at the Carl Neilsen Academy in Odense, Denmark. An acclaimed expert on natural horn performance, his research led him to become a maker of fine reproductions of classic instruments, and he taught a course in natural horn building techniques at the William Cummings House starting in 1994.

Lowell was honored with the Punto Award at the 2008 International Horn Symposium in Denver, where he led his natural horn group, the Hunting Horns of General Washington.

Gail Williams

gwilliamsGail Williams is admired for her tenure at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, her teaching at Northwestern University and at many clinics and workshops around the world, her solo and ensemble playing, and her support of new music.

Gail grew up on a farm in a musical family. Her mother studied percussion and viola; her brother, clarinet. Gail studied with Jack Covert at Ithaca College, then earned a master's degree at Northwestern University and performed with Lyric Opera of Chicago for four years before winning the audition for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1978. She was assistant principal until winning the position of associate principal in 1984, where she remained until retiring in 1998.

Gail teaches at Northwestern University (since 1989), gives master classes at innumerable conservatories and workshops, is horn soloist with major orchestras, and is dedicated to performing chamber music. In 2001, 2005, and 2009, she has served as a judge for the Horn Solo Competition in Porcia, Italy and has coached young brass musicians with Summit Brass since 1986. She has been on the faculty of the Swiss Brass Week in Leukerbad, Switzerland for several years. Her music education degree and playing experience come together in her current teaching.

Gail is principal horn with the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra and was principal horn with the Saito Kenin Orchestra in Japan in 2004 and the World Orchestra for Peace in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009.

Gail has performed as soloist with the Chicago Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Sinfonia da Camera, New World Symphony, the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra, Syracuse Symphony, Fairbanks Symphony, Green Bay Symphony, and a number of regional orchestras.

Gail is a founding member of the Chicago Chamber Musicians and Summit Brass. She has performed with the Vermeer Quartet, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York City, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, the Skaneateles Music Festival, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and the Olympic Peninsula Chamber Festival, and she was the featured artist on a chamber music series in Ottawa, Canada with the National Arts Orchestra of Canada.

Gail is active in commissioning projects and has premiered new works by Dana Wilson, Anthony Plog, Oliver Knussen, Yehudi Wyner, Collins Matthews, and others. In 1995, she premiered Deep Remembering by Dana Wilson and Anthony Plog’s Postcards at the International Horn Society Workshop in Yamagata, Japan. In 1997, she premiered Dana Wilson’s Horn Concerto with the Syracuse Symphony. A year later, she performed the Knussen Horn Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Knussen. She helped commission Yehudi Wyner’s Horntrio, and was involved in the orchestration of Dragons in the Sky by Mark Schultz. She premiered another horn and piano work by Dana Wilson, Musings, in 2003 and performed the US premiere of a concerto for Horn and Orchestra by Collins Matthews at Northwestern University in June of 2005.

Gail can be heard on recordings from Summit Brass, including solo recordings 20th Century Settings and Deep Remembering, and Northwestern University’s Goddess Triology, featuring compositions by John McCabe and works for horn and percussion by Charles Taylor and Alec Wilder. A CD with the Chicago Chamber Musicians was nominated for a Grammy award.

Gail has been honored by Ithaca College with a Distinguished Alumni Award and an honorary doctorate. She received the Charles Deering McCormick Teaching Professorship at Northwestern University in 2005, which allowed her to commission and performed new chamber works by Douglas Hill, Dana Wilson, and Augusta Reed Thomas. She was a member of the IHS Advisory Council (1997-2000), received the Punto award in 2008, and was elected an Honorary Member is 2012.

In October 2021, Anthony Plog interviewed Gail for his podcast, which can be heard here.

Vicente Zarzo (1938-2021)

zarzoVincente Zarzo Pitarch was a Spanish horn player who performed and taught in many parts of the world, but especially in Spain, Mexico, and the Netherlands, and wrote horn etudes and books on the history of the horn.

Zarzo was born in 1938 in Benaguacil, Valencia and studied at the Conservatorio Superior de Música Joaquin Rodrigo in Valencia and later with Hans Noeth in Munich, Germany.

Zarzo had positions as solo horn with the Valencia Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra Sinfonica del Gran Teatro del Liceo de Barcelona, the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, the American Wind Symphony of Pittsburg, the National Orchestra of Mexico, and for 25 years with the Residentie Orkest of The Hague, Netherlands. As a soloist, he performed with the Orquesta Municipal de Valencia, Orquesta de Valladolid, Orquesta de Oviedo, Orquesta de Tenerife, Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria, Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid, Orquesta Sinfónica de Port (Portugal), Philharmonic Orchestra of Groningen (Netherlands), Orquesta Nacional de México, National Orchstra of Reykjavik (Iceland), and others.

Zarzo was professor of horn and natural horn at the University of Mexico, the Conservatory of Amsterdam, the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, and at the Conservatoire de Musique in Montreux, Switzerland. He was a guest professor at Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Carlos de Valencia, Conservatorio Superior del Liceo in Barcelona, and the Conservatory of Music and Dance of the Balearic Islands (Palma, Mallorca). He recorded the Brahms Horn Trio, the Hindemith concertos, works of Amando Blanquer, and the Mozart Quintet K452 with Radu Lupu (nominated for the Grand Prix du Disc).

Composers who have written works especially for Zarzo include Wim Laman (Quaterni II), Jan Van Vlijmen (Confronti horn concerto), Hans Henkemans (Concert), Paul de Ro, Eduardo Mata (Sinfónica No. 3), and Amando Blanquer (Sonata and Concierto para 4 trompas y orquesta).

Zarzo was honored with the Punto award at the 2004 International Horn Symposium in Valencia, Spain. In the same year, the Valencia Academy of Music appointed him as “Insigne de la Musica of Valencia.” A street in central Granada, Andalusia, Spain is named for him: Calle Músico Vicente Zarzo. He wrote an article about his collection of horns for the February 1995 issue of The Horn Call. He was elected an IHS Honorary Member in 2020.

Image by JuanMartinezRodriguez / CC BY-SA

Tom Varner

tom varnerTom Varner is known as one of the top living pioneers of jazz and improvisation on the horn, an inventive and passionate composer for his various ensembles, and an authority on jazz horn history and repertoire.

Tom was born in 1957 and grew up in New Jersey, and studied piano with Capitola Dickerson. He started playing horn in fourth grade, choosing it from a photo. He started taking private lessons during his freshman year of high school, concentrating on classical music. When he got interested in jazz, he thought he would have to listen to it but never be able to play it because of his instrument until a friend introduced him to a Thelonius Monk record with a horn solo (by Julius Watkins). Tom played in school and community orchestras, but also the school jazz big band. He studied briefly in 1976 with jazz horn pioneer Julius Watkins, gaining confidence that playing jazz on the horn was possible.

Tom studied for two years at Oberlin College, then transferred to the New England Conservatory of Music (Boston), where he studied horn with Thomas Newell and jazz improvisation and composition with Ran Blake, George Russell, and Jaki Byard and earned a BM in 1979. He holds an MA (2005) from the City College of New York, where he studied with Jim McNeely, Scott Reeves, and John Patitucci. Tom lived in New York City for 26 years, moving to Seattle in 2005.

Tom appears on more than 70 albums and has recorded 14 albums as a composer/leader. He has been in the Down Beat Critics Poll Top Ten annually since the mid-1990s and has been awarded grants from the Jack Straw Foundation, Seattle’s 4Culture, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Chamber Music America/Doris Duke Foundation, and has been a resident at the MacDowell, Blue Mountain, and Centrum arts colonies.

Sidemen on his albums as leader have included Steve Wilson, Tony Malaby, Ed Jackson, Ellery Eskelin, Tom Rainey, Cameron Brown, Drew Gress, Matt Wilson, Kenny Barron, Victor Lewis, Fred Hopkins, and Billy Hart. He has performed and recorded with Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, McCoy Tyner, the Mingus Orchestra, and many others. His influences include Ornette Coleman, Steve Lacy, Charles Mingus, Anthony Braxton, Sonny Rollins, and minimalist composers such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass. His first album featured horn, alto sax, bass, and drums. Later albums were for a quintet of horn, two saxes, bass, and drums, with frequent guest artists. Nine Surprises is for a nonet of three brass, four reeds, and bass and drums.

Many of Tom’s albums reflect both serious and humorous interest in religion, in particular the first century, the upheaval of the Roman Empire, the first 200 years of Christianity, and also Hollywood Bible movies. Although he grew up in New Jersey, his parents were both from a small town in Missouri, and Tom went to church every week growing up. Other influences are science and sci-fi, mythology and folklore, Americana and urban kitsch, James Brown and 20th-century music.

Tom is now Associate Professor of Music at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. He has written articles on Julius Watkins and afterwards for The Horn Call (1988, 1989). While living in New York City, he organized the first Julius Watkins Jazz French Horn Festival, featuring himself, Mark Taylor, John Clark, and Vincent Chancey. He plays a Paxman 20M full double horn.

Tom was elected an IHS Honorary Member in 2020.

Kazimierz Machala

MachalaKazKazimierz (Kaz) W. Machala, a native of Poland, is a performer, teacher, and composer. He is a truly international musician, having played and taught in Europe, Australia, and the US, and back to Poland as Visiting Professor of Horn at the Chopin University of Music in Warsaw, retiring in 2019. His compositions and arrangements have become staples of the horn literature.

Kaz grew up on a farm in central Poland, riding his bicycle through snow and mud with his accordion strapped to his back to get to music lessons. He also played drum, mandolin, two-string bass, and accordion in the village band. When he was in high school, an ethnomusicology professor heard him play accordion at a folklore competition and described the horn to him as the most noble instrument in the entire orchestra. Kaz took the advice seriously, but also played piano, guitar, and banjo to support himself while studying horn. He played banjo and piano in a Dixieland band – daring during the cold war – where he made his first attempts at composing. Acquaintance with Kirk Douglas at a film school in Lodz motivated Kaz to learn English.

Kaz studied at the Janáček Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Brno, Czech Republic (1968-1973), attracted by its long tradition of fine horn playing and unique warm horn sound. After graduation, he played in the Cracow Radio Symphony for one year, but he wanted to learn more about orchestral playing and in 1974 was accepted at Juilliard, where he was the first horn player in the school’s history to receive a DMA degree. He won Third Prize at the 1974 International Music Competition for Woodwinds and Brass in Prague.

Kaz was principal horn in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (1979-1986) and played in several chamber ensembles. He returned to the US to be closer to family and taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1989-2009), now Professor Emeritus. Kaz has performed as a soloist, in various wind and brass ensembles, and with major orchestras. and has taught and performed at festivals in New Zealand, Europe, Canada, and the US. In teaching, he stresses good habits, a well-balanced playing efficiency.

Writing started with transcribing and arranging for chamber ensembles at his first teaching job. He first transcribed music of composers who didn’t write solo works for horn. He wrote for the Dixieland band, songs for a rock band, a film score for a student project in Sydney, and exercises for his students. He wrote a horn quartet for his students, which the American Horn Quartet included in their concert repertoire. His arrangement of the American Folk Suite for wind quintet has been performed and recorded by the Berlin Philharmonic Woodwind Quintet. Transcribing and arranging has led to Kaz writing original compositions. He premiered his own Concerto for Horn, Winds, and Percussion with the Wind Symphony at the University of Illinois; it has received numerous performances on five continents. He received the Excellence in Composition Award at the International Brass Chamber Music Festival in Louisville, Kentucky for his Brass Quintet No. 1.

Since his retirement, Kaz has been composing and giving masterclasses. He was elected an IHS Honorary Member in 2020.

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