Encouraging new horn players

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06 Oct 2008 21:00 #183 by Robert Ward
Encouraging new horn players was created by Robert Ward
Question:

Thanks for taking the time to respond to forum questions.

How much time and energy do you devote to activities that promote horn to young players? (Including private lessons, pay and gratis teaching/promotional situations – anything you think falls in the category of encouraging young people to take up and stick with this instrument.)

What do you think is the prospect for the future of fine players for horn?

What do you find are successful ways to encourage kids to pick horn among all the other things pulling for their attention?

Molly White
Jefferson City, MO

Bob Ward's answer:

Hi Molly,

Thanks so much for your note. With my busy schedule with the orchestra, I'm mostly just teaching at the San Francisco Conservatory and a little bit at UC Berkeley. I also have been doing coaching at National Orchestral Institute for a couple of years and do teaching and coaching in the summers down at the Summer Brass Institute in Menlo Park, CA. I'm pretty much always up for teaching a lesson if someone is coming through town and wants to get together. Plus there are the occasional master classes on tour. So it's an informal mix of things when the schedule works out.

I was not totally clear when I read your questions what age group you were meaning when you said "young." I am involved mostly with college, grad student level and young professional players. I feel what I have to offer can best help that age group and I enjoy the interaction most with them. For players with less experience than that, there is a large network of teachers here in the Bay Area that do a great job teaching kids about the more fundamental aspects of playing, so I feel that they are well covered.

In terms of getting kids started on the horn, there really is no good substitute for excellent school music. I was the beneficiary of a school system with a great emphasis on the arts and I have always been very thankful for that. Here in California, as in many other states, the arts are under increasing pressure, and, due to something called Proposition 13 which passed shortly before I got here in 1980, money for schools has been shrinking and music usually gets cut first. There are rich school districts with good programs, but they are much rarer than they used to be.

The SF Symphony runs a great program here which sends ensembles (hired from the community, not musicians from the orchestra) out into the public schools. There is also a program that is coordinated with public schools that teach about music and then the kids visit Davies Hall and hear us play. There are also many youth orchestras in the area that provide a good opportunity. In a sense there is a "minor league" system that you can move up through and then pursue it further in college if you choose to. But I recognize that not all communities are as fortunate, so in that case, more responsibility falls on the school music programs.

How to get kids to choose the horn? In this era of Facebook, iPods and video games, there are certainly a lot of competing opportunities. All I can say is you have to expose them to the sounds of the various instruments and the personalities of the players. I think that a personal connection is the best way for that to happen - a school demo for example. I'm not convinced that video or print teaching about music is as useful.

The future of fine horn playing? Very competitive, and will be increasingly so. I have some long standing concerns about whether there are too many horn players being graduated from schools of music chasing too few jobs. Orchestras are always struggling financially, and in the current economic climate will finding it even harder. I think that anyone who wants to be a professional horn player needs to be aware of the intense challenge that awaits them in navigating the audition circuit. One has to be very persistent and very talented to make it. Plus I think that only the players who really love it will have the motivation to be successful.

All the best,

Bob

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