Prelude: In Which I Figure Out How to Blog

14 Jan

Hello there, readers!  Welcome to the Horns Across America blog.  I suppose an introduction is in order.

My name is Jessica Pinkham (I usually go by Jessie).  I am currently in my first year of undergrad at the University of Cincinnati, studying horn performance with professor Randy Gardner.  I am also a member of the honors college, which brings me to the purpose of this blog!

Each honors student at UC is required to have a certain number of “Honors Experiences” before graduation.  These can include honors level seminars, study abroad tours, co-ops, and a variety of other experiences designed by the college.  Students can also design their own experiences which meet a specific set of guidelines and submit a proposal for the project to the honors department for approval.  As a music major, I worried that I would have a difficult time designing such a project that would be applicable to my major, but after some thought and careful planning, the Horns Across America Project was born.

Tools of the trade.

In high school, I was a member of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra.  As I participated in each youth orchestra and studied with different teachers (Laura Guili in Chicago and Susan Welty in Atlanta), I learned about the various differences in horn playing style, equipment, and technique between each region.  These differences have always fascinated me.  I have heard about the basic variations in horn playing between regions, but I have never studied them in depth.

Thus, the project: Over the next several months, I plan to travel across the country, visiting several professional orchestras and studying different techniques of sound production in each horn section. I plan to visit major orchestras in Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.  This is by no means a comprehensive list of the extremely talented orchestras in the United States, but it will give me a good basis of understanding of the different qualities of sound based on technique, equipment, and musical concepts.

These are my goals for each visit:

  1. Attend at least one concert performance per orchestra.
  2. Meet with at least one member of the section and obtain a better understanding of each section’s distinctive sound and musical philosophy.
  3. Attend a rehearsal.
  4. Arrange a private lesson with at least one member of the horn section.
  5. If permissible, record the rehearsals and lessons I am able to attend.

Although I will not be able to do everything on this list for every orchestra, even fulfilling a few of these goals will be incredibly educational.

In preparation for each visit, I will listen to a variety of recordings from each orchestra, making note of the differences in sounds between the horn sections.  I will also read excerpts from John Henry Mueller’s The American Symphony Orchestra: A Social History of Musical Taste, which examines the different aesthetic qualities of several orchestras in the United States as well as their histories and prevailing repertoire.

I’m not sure what to expect from this project as of yet, but I am certain that this undertaking (and it is quite an undertaking!) will be incredibly beneficial to my career as a student, artist, and professional.  I’ve never been much of a blogger per se, so please bear with me while I figure all of this out!  I hope you enjoy sharing in my adventures – thanks for reading!




6 Responses to “Prelude: In Which I Figure Out How to Blog”

  1. Carrie 01/15/2011 at 3:03 pm #

    Okay, I officially adore your blog. 😀

    • Jessica 01/15/2011 at 8:33 pm #

      Glad to hear it! Thanks for following!

  2. Caley 01/15/2011 at 4:39 pm #

    Jessie, this is awesome! I can relate in my own way–I find these kind of cultural differences fascinating, which is why I wrote a research paper on the variation of accents and dialects in the US…not quite as immense as your project, but on the same lines, just in the linguistics field 🙂 How about if I ever get insanely rich during the time you’re in college, I’ll take you to Europe and you can see some of their symphonies, too? Sound good? It’s a plan.

    • Jessica 01/15/2011 at 8:35 pm #

      Nice parallel – those kinds of linguistic differences are fascinating.
      And Europe – um, yes please? I originally wanted to use this project as an opportunity to study abroad, but then I thought – why not start with the U.S.? Someday I hope to take it global. Let me know when you’re filthy rich and we’ll do a Europe tour!

  3. Jeff 01/16/2011 at 6:51 pm #

    Great start to a great project. I’d be interested to learn if getting a different conductor creates changes, subtle or otherwise, to a “city sound”. Sort of a nature or nurture question. Also, are there are predominant makes of horn in a given orchestra that contribute to a cultural sound?
    Rock on!

    • Jessica 01/17/2011 at 5:39 am #

      There are several factors that can influence a section’s sound – horn and conductor included. However, the most important factor by far is the musicians themselves. More on this to come…

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