As I was thinking about my last President’s Message, I was reminded of how lucky I am to be in music. My university, like so many other schools and school districts, is wrestling with budget issues that inevitably involve all of us and extend to discussions of music’s place in our culture. As we wrestle, we are often blinded by the daily activities that can provide us with our strongest arguments. I realized that the past two weeks (in the first half of March, in our printing schedule) were perfect in illustrating not only how music participates in our lives but, again, just how lucky I am to be able to make music.

March 4-6: My school hosts an annual band festival. Sixteen bands and 800-1000 students attend each day. Many of the attending groups are directed by alumni, and it is good to see them again. Our own groups shine. I get to play Gigi Gryce’s Two French Fries with our big band as a part of each day’s closing concert. One of my students is the second soloist, and we hold our own pretty well. The huge audiences, especially the horn players, seem both surprised and pleased that the horn (and hornists) can play jazz.

March 7: I listen to my students play in their quarter-ending orchestra concert. The program’s major work is Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, with Ravel’s Bolero, a concert aria by Dvorak, and that fantastic last movement of Ginastera’s Estancia that conductors seem intent on setting new speed records for each time it is performed. The crowd is quite large and enthusiastic. They play great, and I bask in the sounds of their work.

March 8: Three current and former students and I rehearse Schumann’s Konzertstück for an upcoming performance. We listen to the Chicago Symphony recording and (try to) play along. We are constantly reminded how great the CSO horn section is.

March 13: I record the basic tracks for a jazz CD with some of my favorite musical friends. They are great but I have a bit of a rocky time. I am trying to do everything well at once, and am getting in my own way. My friends are very encouraging, and in retrospect, it wasn’t that bad. I still have some work to do, however. Fortunately, with recording, you get to try again.

March 16: I visit my son’s fourth grade class and talk for an hour about the history of the horn, from signaling device to
musical instrument, including horns found in nature (conches, kudu and cow horns), post horn, hunting horn and so on. They get a real kick out of the sounds these instruments make, and can’t wait to get their hands on them.

March 17-19: With four other symphony colleagues, I visit 13 elementary schools to show 1000+ students the brass family. In May, they will come to our theatre and hear the whole orchestra, and this is their chance to learn how the instruments work and what they sound like up close. We play Scheidt, Bernstein, Ewald, and Pollack. Virtually every stop includes questions about why my right hand is in the bell, and why I have a pencil attached to my horn.

March 17: I hear my oldest son (7th grade) play in his middle school jazz band. He plays piano and likes everything about it except the fact that rehearsals start at 7:15 am every day (does anyone else see the irony of jazz band at 7:15 am?). The concert also features short sets by the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade bands, and the various stages of their growth are obvious. We have only one middle school and one high school in our town, and our band director, who directs both programs, is a whirlwind. He looks thrilled with each group and they obviously love him back. The spirit of the concert overshadows the various “surprises” that creep into concerts at this level, and everyone leaves happy.

During our one week in July, I know I will experience similar feelings of excitement and good fortune. To celebrate the horn with so many good friends and great musicians is such a treat, and I look forward to seeing you in Brisbane. I feel equally fortunate to have been able to serve the IHS as president for the past four years. I thank you all for your trust in electing me to the Advisory Council, and I thank the AC for its trust in electing me as president. We have taken some important steps in defining and strengthening the society’s mission and activities, and I am sure we will take more.

March 21: I pull out my folder for our next orchestra concert. The program is Barber’s First Essay, Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. I really am a lucky guy.

Wishing you good chops,

jeff_sig