It’s no secret that the mother of all horn blogs is Horn Matters by John Ericson and Bruce Hembd. It’s really a spectacular achievement that should be a regular destination of any serious horn player. But you should not live by horn alone any more than you should eat steak and potatoes every meal. Variety is a good thing to help give you a rich educational compost rather than a monoculture. There are a lot of other arts blogs worth visiting to this end. The central gathering point for a slew of such blogs is
The education of musicians (maybe other arts as well, but I only know about musicians) has a number of Mount Rushmore-sized gaps in it that are neither easy to see (tradition and habit blind us) nor easy to fix (Ocean Liner Curricula, i.e. tradition, habit, vested interest, etc).
One gap is the lack of sufficient and useful training (especially early on) in the aural side of musicianship: sound before sign (or symbol) learning, improvisation & composition (thinking in music), and so on, which contain powerful motivators, learning tools, and build adaptability into the musical DNA of the musician to be able to survive and even thrive in this century (instead of being ready for the 19th as our current education prepares us, mostly). This part is a matter of ossification of attitudes and the status quo – just try to squeeze a new course into the curriculum no matter what the merits – no time, no room(s), it’s not what we’ve done before, the excuses go on and on. The climate is getting colder, but the dinosaurs see no reason to change anything, we’ll have a committee study the matter and then forget about it.
Music critic, author, educator, and all-around transcendental thinker Greg Sandow is always a good read, and his blog is usually chockablock with tantalizing ideas, and you know how I love ideas. The subtitle of his blog is “Greg Sandow on the future of classical music,” and he often muses about solutions to contemporary classical music problems. One recent entry was a reprint of another blog (by Mike Oneil Lam) that speculated on an idea to make orchestral music more comprehensible to the uninitiated. Mike’s idea is to take the idea of the sports event scoreboard and bring it to symphony orchestra concerts. He imagines that the hall could use a projector screen or TV screen to display information about what’s going on in the piece as it unfolds. The information could be similar to what you would get at a sporting event – names of composer, conductor, current movement and title, game timer (how much time is left), information on what to listen for (e.g. solos, main themes) at any one time, etc. (Batting average of the principal horn? Only .999 this season – might be traded? Sorry, got carried away there…).
Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. Normally graduation speakers speak at graduation, but we here at Horninsights have a different tradition: we give you your graduation speech on your first day of graduate school. We find that it reduces the occurrence of the moment that happens some time after graduation where you smack your forehead and say, “Man, I wish I would have known that before I graduated.” So, without further ado, here are the Horninsights Insights into what to keep in mind as you wend your way through these last years of formal musical training. Takes notes; there will be a quiz after class. Note: we do apologize for some of the points, which might seem blindingly obvious, but which, we have learned, are not always obvious to everyone.
1. Get really good on your instrument.