Another loss that Knoxville’s musical community sustained this past spring was the passing on Feb. 20th of Roger Stephens, the Director of the UT School of Music from 2001-2011. He was a crucial catalyst in the drive to get a new music building at UT, the groundbreaking for which was held on Nov. 9th, 2010. A tribute to Dr. Stephens will be held on September 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the Cox Memorial Auditorium in the Alumni Music Building on campus.
We at the KSO are in the process of finding a new principal French horn, to replace the late Calvin Smith. This process, even more so than other auditions, is a labor of love.
Barry Tuckwell once likened playing the French horn to “driving a sports car very fast down a treacherous mountain road.” After hearing seven hours of horn auditions yesterday, I totally concur- and would have to say that there are some very good drivers out there. It is a versatile instrument that straddles the woodwind and brass families; brassy enough to hold its own with trumpets and trombones, but sensitive enough to blend with clarinets and flutes. As a string player, serving as an “at-large”audition committee member for wind instruments is a learning experience. Sometimes it is obvious what to look for, but a lot of subtleties are lost on me and I defer to the “experts” on such issues as blending ability, tone color shading, attack and breath.
As an ignorant young string player, my early opinion about French horn playing was that good horn playing was the kind you didn’t notice. I have been schooled on this and now know that there is so much more to it than that- especially when there are so many that play at a very high level.
To be continued....