Summer fun: Musical Esperanto

A French Omnitonic horn.

I spend two weeks every summer on the faculty of the Kendall Betts Horn Camp in the wilds (sort of) of New Hampshire. It is wall to wall, dawn to beyond dusk horn: masterclasses, lessons, ensembles, presentations, concerts, and – at the end – ice cream and fireworks. The best of all this is

Horn with three Perinet valves

simply being around 50 or so passionate horn players of every stripe, novice to pro, young and old, from all corners of the country and sometimes the globe. It’s so much fun to talk horn and do horn ’round the clock for two intense weeks. This summer was perhaps the best ever (of course, it seems like that every summer). Although I wrote the book on it (Improv Games for Classical Musicians), my usual daily teaching life back home consists of solos, etudes, and orchestral excerpts. At KBHC I get to stretch out (3 hours every morning! Beats the heck out of the Procrustean 50 minute segments that school days are chopped up into) into topics of technique and musicianship, as well as to have some fun with improv. For faculty performance night, I usually try to come up with something unusual (i.e. improv-esque). This time I did three short improvisations with a little help from my friends.

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Improv Game for Horn Players: Role Playing

One great thing about horn camp is that you have time to do all sorts of things that you seldom get the chance to shoehorn in the narrow time slots available to you back at school. I luxuriated in the three hours we had at KBHC (Kendall Betts Horn Camp) every morning to get deep into various topics (my favorite topic this summer was constructing a thread to organize all of horn technique in a progressive way, using video games as one model…). Also fun were the “Open Studios” that were special times when the faculty member could visit other topics and participants could switch from their regular routines to sample the various offerings. My open studios were on Classical Improv, and attendance was the greatest ever. We had a lot of fun working on horn technique and musicality in the context of classical improvisation. I was delighted to work with some wonderfully talented folks, especially high schooler Nikki La Bonte, who, in spite of being a novice at this, instantly seemed to acquire a very experienced ear, which is often a great challenge to classical players – they have to listen in a very different way than they are used to, and quickly understand what they hear and respond. Kudos, Nikki! I also had the pleasure of jamming with Ian Mayton (college sophomore from the U of NC-Greensborough, a student of my friend and colleague Abigail Pack), who was a terrific jamming partner as we made stuff up for about an hour (I also enlisted him to join me in an improvisation on stage that very night. He didn’t hesitate and did great).

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Improv Game of the Day: Mary, Mary, Quite Varied

Mary Had a Little Lamb (Paul McCartney song)

I’m back from two weeks at the Kendall Betts Horn Camp in the wilds of New Hampshire. I   had a terrific time with great people, best ever. Horn camp is horn from early to late every day; while most of the time were concerned with regular horn activities and topics, I was also able to work in some improv into the schedule. I will be recounting some of what we did in this space.

One improv game that worked well and was a lot of fun even with novice improvisers was as follows:

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