(note: THE FOLLOWING EVENT OCCURRED 2/28/17, 2 YEARS AGO- it’s just taken a little while to put it into words.)

It finally happened.  The thing that all horn players or really, all musicians fear.  The inability to play my instrument due to an injury, disease, or handicap.

I broke a a bone in my left palm.  I. BROKE. A. BONE. IN. MY. LEFT. PALM.  (the all caps followed by periods was for dramatic effect… did you feel it?) I can still feel it.  It hurts. It feels numb.  Same thing, really. It’s so many emotions wrapped into one piece of prose with a pragmatic view.

I love the horn. I hate the horn.  I can play it well, but I don’t think I play it well enough…yet.  It’s a long story, but I hope I can help any who care to know it.


I was a great beginning clarinet player in the second semester of my 6th grade year.  I learned the fingerings, all 12 major scales (what!), and showed my directors that I had a fervor to be great.  They believed me and offered to switch me to the bassoon or french horn. Now that I know what I know, they possibly thought I could handle the intricacies of those instruments.  Young horn player need to have a great work ethic and be comfortable with delayed gratification as it may be a while before correct notes come forth with a beautiful sound.  And, yes, bassoonists must have a similar tolerance for delayed success and be able to learn how to construct their own mouthpiece, day in, day out.  So, what did I do? I chose the french horn because I had no friends who played it, and I was eager to do something on my own.  I now feel I chose the path of least reed-sistance.  Get it?  Ah, that’s okay.   Horn players are hilarious, unless you aren’t one.


I decided to study music and major in French horn at the University of North Texas, upon graduation at Aldine High School in Houston, TX in 1997.  I really wanted to be a periodontist after spending my sophomore and junior summers as a dental assistant.  I loved watching a patient transform from an infected mess to a happy, healthy, toothy wonder! BUT, I also had another talent that my band director, Jeff Laird, begged me to take notice of.  I could play the horn well- for a high-schooler.  Dr. Laird urged me to take lessons with Jeff Solomon my senior year of high school, and that led to playing with the Greater Houston Youth Orchestra.  My first orchestral performance of note was Shostakovich 5…what?*$%^!  I was surrounded by great horn players and even experienced sectionals led by THE Bill VerMeulen.  I didn’t really get what that meant at the time, but I could feel it was something special. So, I decided to major in music at the University of North Texas in 1997 to see what this would turn into.  I studied with Bill Scharnberg.


I started at UNT with relatively NO ear training or theory experience, compared to my classmates.  I swear, they all had perfect pitch, perfect hearing, or were just perfect in every musical way.   It was a daunting task to match them, to say the least.  I worked tirelessly to pass my my Aural Skills classes with a ‘B’ and hustled to get an A in Theory.  You should know that a B was hard for me to swallow after having worked so hard- I often was in the practice room until 2am working on my 8:30am quiz material!  Fun fact: I once took a dictation quiz on a 12 tone row in which the 1st pitch was given, and the next eleven were to be filled in. I MISSED ALL 11 PITCHES! My boyfriend at the time (now husband) got 2 of the 11 pitches correct, and I was so upset!!! He was a percussionist who routinely banged on things in a rhythmic, but musical fashion and got a 25%, but I was purely melodic and musically trained and got a 0%.  ZERO.  That hurts.  Still upset about that one. The horn players at UNT were all accepting and inviting.  I never felt like I didn’t belong or like I shouldn’t be at UNT when around them.  That was a nice change from Aural Skills!  I felt encouraged, inspired and like I belonged.  That’s important.  (This is something I strive to achieve un my own teaching: encouraging, inspiring, and belonging).  I always looked up to my peers and elders.  They had something to offer, no matter if it was musical, academic, or social.  If I could learn from them, I could grow and become a better person.  I spent all four years studying with William Scharnberg and learned how to work hard/smart, be a good person, and use better grammar!


Graduate school.  I played the risky game of putting all my eggs in one basket.  I only applied to one school and was fortunate enough to get in.  I enrolled in SMU’s Meadows School of Music in the Fall of 2001.  I studied with Gregory Hustis, the Principal Horn of the Dallas Symphony. I was able to graduate from UNT without any debt (I had full tuition and worked to afford living costs), so I decided to take out a modest loan to cover rent and living costs while attending SMU.  I felt it was supremely important to focus on practicing and studying to get the maximum benefit from graduate school.  This turned out to be a wise choice and overall sound investment.  While I studied with Greg, I learned a great deal about sound, equipment, and musical intention.  The summer after I graduated in 2003, I was accepted to the National Repertory Orchestra and enjoyed a fantastic summer making music with the nation’s top young orchestral players in Breckenridge, CO.  A better graduation gift, I could not imagine!


There are a ton of details I’m skipping (about 14 years worth), but let’s just say that I start teaching a ton of private students, working at TrumCor mutes, and freelancing in the DFW area in 2003.  This was/is my life and career.  A trifecta: teaching, playing, and managing. These are all valuable skills to develop and foster.  I eventually began to teach at the college level while continuing to oversee TrumCor and freelancing.  As I grew in experience and age, my factions also increased in demand.  Amidst it all, I joined a rock band, became a mother, lost my first dog and gained a new one and became a full-time college professor.  It became a busy, busy, wonderful music career in all areas of performance, teaching, and administrative skills.  I could not be doing more of the very thing I sought to achieve in the beginning of it all.



An ordinary trip and fall moment.  Except, it was extraordinary.  The kind you don’t shake off or just forget.  I tripped, fell, and braced the impact with my left hand/left leg because I am right handed.  I quickly got back up but felt dazed and in shock.  This was an unfamiliar feeling, so I did my best to just let it happen and ‘go with the flow’.  Any experienced musician will attest to the art of ‘going with the flow’ in music and in life.  I looked at my left hand and saw and felt that it was weak, but it moved as I wished it to, so I was somewhat hopeful.  The only catch was that when I moved my ring and pinky fingers, it made a clicking/popping sound that could really only mean one thing…I needed an X-Ray to determine if there was a fracture.  I picked my son up from school, and we then went to the MedPost Urgent Care facility in our neighborhood.  The X-Rays showed a fracture, and I was immediately struck with fear, sadness, anger, and hopelessness.  I had a service booked in 2 weeks. How would I play? I couldn’t.  What about Easter? HornFest? Opera? Teaching? Perhaps I could still teach but, but, but, I can’t play!  There were tears.  Many tears. And, I was scared.  More scared than when I looked down at my hand just hours earlier thinking maybe it was broken.  I was scared for the entire lifetime I had poured into my career of teaching, playing, and managing.  Suddenly, it all seemed in jeopardy.  But, I now believe it to be the beginning of the rest of my career.  The day that I started taking nothing for granted and stopped holding myself back.

Stay tuned for more!




April 8, 2015- NEW DEADLINE

You keep seeing pictures of the new purple 2015 TCU HornFest t-shirt.  You’re always seeing people wearing the 2012, 2013, and 2014 HornFest t-shirts around the globe.  You’re hearing about how cool they are from all your friends.  Admit it: YOU HAVE TO HAVE ONE.  So, heads up!  The new deadline to get your 2015 HornFest t-shirt for free with your registration fee is now April 8.  The wonderful folks at Mulholland Custom Imprints need 2 more days to get our shirts to us in time for April 19, so we’re gonna give it to them.

Have you registered yet?


YES? See you there with your snazzy t-shirt!

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 5.46.31 PM

Purple in the House!

Whether it’s a 5K race, 50’s style sock-hop, band camp, legendary rock concert, fundraiser, chili cook-off, or epic gathering of horn players making music, one thing’s for sure- we MUST have a t-shirt to commemorate the event.  For three years, the TCU HornFest has provided t-shirts to all its early registrants at no extra cost, and we’re doing it again this year!  Register by April 10, and your shirt will be ready for you on the big day, April 19 to wear on the stage, showing off your purple pride.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 5.46.31 PM

If you are unable to get registered by April 10, don’t worry, we’ll have a limited quantity of shirts for sale at $10 each.  All proceeds go in the fund for making next year’s HornFest happen, so it’s for a great cause.

Register online today!

Check HERE for HornFest schedule

Register for TCU HornFest NOW!

Hello Spring Breakers!  Well, for TCU students and faculty, it’s back to work, but for many others, a nice week long break has commenced.  Either way, the dedicated horn player gets no rest as we usually use this time to catch up, dive in to some new practicing ideas, listen to more music, and maybe get out to see more live performances!  Speaking of practicing ideas, listening to music, and watching live performances, you should put Sunday, April 19, 2015 on your calendar to come to the TCU HornFest.  You can add “participate and perform” to your list of musical activities as we will be having a high school solo competition, masterclass for the winner, a Participant Showcase concert, and the TCU Mass Horn Choir in which any horn player/participant may join!


Our special guest for 2015’s TCU HornFest is Michelle Baker of the Metropolitan Opera.  We are very excited to host her and share her expertise with you!


Michelle Baker

But, we can’t make it all happen unless you register for the event.  Ifyou are planning to compete, you need to register on or before April 10, 2015.  If you want to get the snazzy TCU HornFest t-shirt for free, you will need to register on or before April 10, 2015.  Otherwise, register when after April 10 or on the day of the event, but be sure to bring $10 for a t-shirt!

Have questions?  Email Heather Test at h.test@tcu.edu.


Have a stellar ensemble that you’d like to have perform on the 1pm Participant Showcase?  Email Heather Test at h.test@tcu.edu with the name of your group, where you’re from, names of each member, title and composer of composition, and please keep it to around 5 minutes in length.



Mansfield Horn Ensemble at 2014 TCU HornFest

Want more details?  Visit the HornFest page.

Ready to REGISTER?

The TCU Horn Ensemble at TMEA

 The TCU Horn Ensemble at TMEA

Friday, February 13, 2015 at 9:30am – CC West Registration


We have lots of great music in store for those who will be in San Antonio, TX this week at the Texas Music Educators Association Convention.  Join us for a free performance in the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center at the CC West Registration area stage just outside the Exhibit Hall on Friday, February 13, 2015 at 9:30am.  There will be fun, smiles, and surprises!

Check out our event on Facebook, and let us know if you can come!



In addition to all things mommy, music, and horn-related, I have been getting into making my own toiletries, homeopathic remedies, and household cleaners with essential oils.  In the pursuit of finding the best ingredients, I found Young Living Essential Oils.  I was immediately taken with their potency and purity- so much so that I now have my own webpage at www.youngliving.org/heathertest, and my own FaceBook group Essentially Heather Test.  Check out my recipes, ideas, and recommended oils, and let me know if you ever want to get together to swap recipes or make some goodies!

For starters, here are just a couple ways I am using these essential oils to replace common, and often toxic, household products:

Slique Water  4/16/14

Add 4-6 drops of Slique Essence Essential Oil to 8 oz. of water.

Shake vigorously, and sip until finished.


The flavor is citrusy and minty, all in one, with a touch of sweetness from stevia.

I drink Slique Water in between breakfast and my inevitably late lunch and in the car while driving.

Now that my son is a year old, I’m really cracking down on those extra calories that I can’t really claim to need anymore…boohoo.

The blend of EOs in Slique Essence is:     Grapefruit EO (Citrus paradisi), Tangerine EO (Citrus reticulata), Spearmint EO (Mentha spicata), Lemon EO (Citrus limon), Ocotea (Ocotea quixos), Stevia (Rebaudioside A)

Slique Essence combines grapefruit, tangerine, lemon, spearmint, and ocotea with stevia extract in a unique blend that supports healthy weight management goals. These ingredients work together to help control hunger*, especially when used in conjunction with Slique Tea or the Slique Kit. The pleasant citrus combination of grapefruit, tangerine, and lemon essential oils adds a flavorful and uplifting element to any day with the added support of spearmint that may help with digestion.* Ocotea essential oil adds an irresistible, cinnamon-like aroma to help control hunger, while stevia adds an all-natural sweetener that provides a pleasant taste with no added calories. Slique™ Essence combines powerful essential oils with stevia extract in a unique blend that supports healthy weight management goals, especially when used in conjunction with other Slique products.* How to Use: Shake vigorously before use. Inhale directly, apply topically, or take internally as a dietary supplement. Essential Oils: grapefruit, tangerine, lemon, spearmint, and ocotea with stevia extract

To purchase this EO blend, please visit www.youngliving.org/heathertest

Music is Life

So. Many. Things. Have happened since my last post in January of this year!  Like, I HAD A BABY!  On April 15, 2013 at 4:20am, I gave birth to Benjamin Robert Test, a healthy, 8 pound boy.  He is now 3 months old, and he has been such a joy to take care of, love, watch change and grow, and show off.  Being a mother has introduced so many firsts and has been what I consider the biggest improvisation of my life!

Screen shot 2013-04-21 at 10.32.05 PM

So, about that whole improvisation thing…I’ve often said, “MUSIC IS LIFE,” meaning that everything we encounter in music, we encounter in life and vice versa.  For instance, becoming a mother and parent for the first time was filled with many unknowns.  It’s like playing a new piece of music for the first time.  Even though so many millions and billions of people have been through the process of becoming parents, it’s just not something you can be fully prepared for without experiencing it yourself.  Just like performing a piece.  Sure, you can read about it, watch films and documentaries, ask your friends, ask your parents, think about it, imagine it, and even daydream about it, but it’s really all just a theory until it’s YOUR turn to do it.  So, the best thing you can do is research, prepare, and practice to your ability and leave yourself open to experiencing the whole thing as it happens.  Oh, and be prepared to be unprepared.  And also learn to expect the unexpected and to make some mistakes.  After all, how will you know what to do until you know what to do?

So, now that my baby boy is here, life has not only just begun for him, but a new version of life is constantly evolving for me as well.  I am now a musician, wife, teacher, AND a mother.  In fact, being a mother is my newest role and quite possibly the most important role I will ever have.  My husband and I are now responsible for a new little boy and making sure that he grows up to be an independent, respectful, responsible adult.  That’s a huge job and not one that I take lightly.  But while we are working on that long-term project, I still have the other three roles to nurture….no biggie.  Thankfully, I’ve been learning about life and myself through music for more than half my life.  I’ll share the most poignant things in this entry.


While I don’t have a crystal ball and can’t predict the future of motherhood, I trust that I will know what to do and how to handle any situations when they arise.  And if I don’t, I’ll know how to find help.  Studying music and being a musician has taught me this “skill” called trusting myself.  I’ve often heard interviews of established, successful women like Oprah where they say something along the lines of, “if I could tell the 20 yr. old version of myself anything, I’d tell her to trust herself and believe in herself more.” Now that I’m almost halfway through my thirties, I’d echo those sentiments.  You can be afraid of the unknown, aka the future, or you can trust that you’ll figure it out once it becomes the present.  It’s like making a stop at the convenience store hungry only to realize you have 85 cents in your pocket.  What will you do?  Instead of lamenting the fact that you left your wallet at home along with your packed lunch and your phone where your friend with some cash and time to bring it all to you would be a call away, you’ll figure something else out.  Maybe you’ll just find something to eat that’s less than 85 cents or do something more creative to fundraise.  Maybe you’ll pull your horn out and play for tips!  In other words, you will be fine and you will figure it out.  You’ll make due…and you’ll do better the next time you leave the house expecting to encounter hunger along the way.  When tomorrow’s challenges arrive, you’ll be there, and you’ll figure it out just like I will.  I trust that now more than ever.


In so many ways, music has been preparing me for motherhood my whole life.  Music has  taught me that mistakes will happen, and that mistakes are essential in promoting change, growth, and learning.  I have made and will make mistakes as I raise Benjamin.  I have and will make mistakes as a horn player, wife, and teacher.  But along with all of the mistakes comes the knowledge and wisdom that I have and will gain as a result of reflecting on them in order to do better.  When I know better, I will do better.  And, if I don’t know better, I hope someone will show me better or that I will always seek to do better!  And while I’m making mistakes, seeking to and hopefully doing better, I hope to be a positive example and influence on those watching…like my son and my students.

As someone who doesn’t really enjoy making mistakes, especially in a public forum (who does?), I often think about quotes like, “those who don’t make mistakes don’t make much of anything” and “those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind” to help get me through those mistake-laden times.  I also do my best not to dwell on mistakes that I’ve made.  Sure, taking a look at the mistake’s cause is vital to preventing it from occurring again, but obsessing and meditating on the mistake itself will quite possibly make it happen again, and again.  Darn it, that’s not going to help!  So, I also like to remember that action follows thought and that where you put your energy, thought, and time is what grows.  Think positive and act positive.  Be solution-oriented.  Recover quickly.  Focus on what you want to happen and not on what you don’t want to happen.  TRUST YOURSELF.  And when all else fails, “fake it ’til you make it!”- that’s my favorite saying.  It foreshadows that you will make, and I know from experience that you won’t be faking it all the way.  Somewhere in there, you’ll become a confident, experienced expert!

I feel like I could draw from the well of “music is life” analogies for days.  There are so many of them that directly apply to my new role as a mother as well as every other role I have.  From practicing, rehearsing, performing alone or with others, learning about the history, improvising, teaching, to just listening to music on a deep level, you’ll potentially become better at everything you do.  Everything.  It’s all the same.

I look forward to continuing to think about all of the ways music is life.  And I look forward to sharing this with my son, Benjamin.  Please share with me how music has helped you in your life.  And if you never thought about it before, maybe now you will!




The Tonight Show

There have been a number of once in a lifetime-type events that I’ve been fortunate enough to experience as a professional musician.  Most recently, it was to be a guest musician with The Polyphonic Spree on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.  The day was a whirlwind that all led up to a three minute and thirty second song!


First of all, we got word that The Tonight Show wanted us for sure just a week or so before the performance.  While this was really exciting, I then began to think, “uh oh, I am playing the Nutcracker, I have jury duty, and I have final exams to administer and last lessons to teach!”  What was I going to do?  I can’t miss Jay Leno, but I also can’t skip out on my legal and institutional obligations and commitments either.  Was there a way to work it all out?

YES.  I am always about thinking YES before no when it comes to the seemingly impossible.  So, I started brainstorming.  Immediately, I deferred my jury duty summons to a later date, rescheduled my lessons and arranged to give my finals a few days early.  I decided I could play my last gig on Sunday afternoon, catch an evening flight out to Los Angeles, spend the following day at The Tonight Show studio, play the show, hang out for a bit, then catch a red-eye back to Dallas in time for my acupuncture appointment on Tuesday morning and a full day of lessons…and, it all worked out!

So, now about the big day!  Some of the ladies in the Spree and I took a car from our hotel to the studio and arrived around 9:15am.  When we checked in, we all got visitor badges and were graciously escorted through the maze of hallways that is “backstage”.  There were makeup rooms, hair rooms, lounges, wardrobe rooms, green rooms for the band in residence, green rooms for the talk show guests, and then finally, FOUR dressing/green rooms for us, The Polyphonic Spree.  Each room had its own warmth and style to it that made it feel very comfortable.  There was coffee, tea, danishes, and a refrigerator stocked with water, juice, and soda to greet us in the A.M. I set my stuff down, had a few bites of a bagel and a water and went promptly to the set.

IMG_5447The set…WOW!

There were easily ten huge, real, flocked Christmas trees, lights, shrubbery, and the most thoughtfully crafted multi-level stage I had ever seen for our band.  Each band section had its own riser that gave each member plenty of room to be free to move around and play comfortably, all while Tim, our leader had the whole floor to move about.  Space on stage is something we don’t take for granted since we often have to cram onto a stage that a four-piece band would find stifling.

I greeted my husband, Kelly Test, right away and found out they had pulled into the studio lot a few hours earlier, coming straight from Dallas on the tour bus.  Kelly plays auxiliary percussion for the Spree, and he easily has the most equipment to unload and set up so, he usually scoffs (lovingly, of course) at my dinky set up, which is merely an XLR cable, delay pedal, power cord, and an 1/4 inch cable.  Oh, and my horn and tambourine.  I started getting my gear set up, when one of the show’s sound women came to help me with my microphone, which was a clip on mic.  I hadn’t used one of those yet, but it was pretty user-friendly.  She also got me connected to a DI box, and we started checking my sound.  I had no signal going through with my pedal hooked up, so we ditched the pedal, and I went with dry sound to the house.  We weren’t playing anything that really needed the delay, so it was no big deal to pare down the effects.

CoverArtPolyphonicSpree-HolidayAfter setting up, we started running through the song we were going to perform, Happy Christmas, a John Lennon cover from our new Christmas album released in October 2012 called Holiday Dream, Sounds of the Holidays, volume 1.  At 10:45am, we did a formal rehearsal and played through the song with sound about 5 times.  Once everyone felt comfortable, we took a break for lunch and had to be back on set at 1pm.

Kelly and I took a stroll to the commissary for lunch and had salad and soup and caught up a bit since we hadn’t seen each other in a few days.  When we came back to the dressing rooms, there was more food!  This time, it was stuff for making sandwiches and awesome rolls and bread to make them with.  Oh well, the salad was better for me anyway 🙂  1pm was quickly approaching, and we had to be fully dressed in costume so the cameramen could practice their angles and see what it would look like on camera.  So, I got my robe on and met the rest of the band on set where we ran through the song a few times.

Jason Garner, drummer of the Spree made this for Baby Benjamin, and I sported it on my robe.
Jason Garner, drummer of the Spree made this for Baby Benjamin, and I sported it on my robe

By 1:20pm, we were finished with the dress rehearsal and had until 4:55pm to get our hair and makeup done and do whatever else we needed.  Personally, I needed my robe ironed, hair fixed, makeup done, and a few snacks.  I was 21 weeks pregnant after all, and the baby needs nutrition!  So, I dropped my robe off to the nice ladies in wardrobe, and they took care of it.  I stopped back by one of the many danish and fruit trays and helped myself.  And then I got my hair fixed by one of the hairstylists.  He was a nice man from Montana who had been in LA for the last 26 years.  He curled my locks and expertly placed my headband made by Pepinochic, or Natalie Young (Spree choirmember) in my hair.

Headband by Pepinochic.  Thanks, Natalie!
Headband by Pepinochic. Thanks, Natalie!


Shortly after that, the most awesome makeup artist arrived to cater to our every need!  She is a friend of Tim and Julie, our fearless leaders, and she was AMAZING.  She gave me a few tips about my eyeshadow application, brows, and then airbrushed my foundation on.  I have heard her words echo every time I put makeup on, which is every day, and I can’t thank her enough!  After she finished my makeup, I was all set.  AND I STILL HAD 2.5 HOURS BEFORE SHOWTIME.  Ugh.  What to do?  I walked around and followed the sound of the cello.  There, I found Miss Buffi Jacobs warming up and practicing, so I pulled out my horn and joined her.  We had a little practice session together, and then I ate some more snacks!  So, that filled up about 30 minutes.  Now what?  I just watched everyone else get their makeup done, talked to a few people, took some pictures, sat down, stood up, walked around.  You get it.  This is the hard part.  Waiting for show time.

4pm finally came, and that’s when the taping of the show began.  So, that was something to do- watch the show as it was happening!  About 12 of us packed into one of the rooms and watched the show on the flat screen tv.  We laughed where we were supposed to and  chatted a bit during the breaks.  Can someone pinch me?  Am I really here right now?

Around 4:30pm, we all started lining up in the hallway leading to the set.  By this time, Olivia Munn is being interviewed by Jay Leno, and everyone’s eyes are glued to the monitors.  We can hear the live audience clapping and we then get in place on the set.  There is a mechanical wall curtain that is down so the audience can’t see us.  As we get set up, I use my trusted TrumCor practice mute to warmup some more and make sure my horn isn’t cold.  I constantly empty my water, warmup, empty water, etc.  The last thing I need is condensation in my horn going “pop, pop, POP!” on national television!

Alas, here it is- 4:55pm.  The wall curtain lifts, Sean Redman and Buffi Jacobs kick it off on mandolin and cello, and vocals, guitar, and I are in!  Here we go!  We played the song and then came off the stage to do some promos with Jay, Gerard Butler, and Olivia Munn.  After the promos, it appeared that there was a technical difficulty during our first performance, so we had to go back and perform the song again. The second time was even better than the first!  And then, we were finished!  Within 20 minutes, the beautiful Christmas trees were wheeled off set, lights were unplugged, and our winter wonderland began to melt away.  Now, it was time to pack up and get out!

After packing up, we all headed back to the hotel and then went to a nice dinner.  We were on such a high after a glorious day with lots of stage and lounging space, lots of food, lots of time, and great sound on and off the stage.  It doesn’t get much better on a show day.  Later, we met in the hotel lounge to hang out and wait for the show to air.  Unfortunately, one of the other girls and I had to catch a ride to the airport and head home, so we missed it, but it was still a lot of fun to wait in anticipation with the rest of the Spree.

post-show, post-dinner, waiting for the show to air
post-show, post-dinner, waiting for the show to air

After taking a fairly empty flight home and sleeping the entire time, I arrived in Dallas at 6am and was home by 7am and watched the show on my DVR.  After that, I took a cat nap and got on with the day.  My once in a lifetime experience was a whirlwind and totally unforgettable!

Thanks, Jay!
Thanks, Jay!


Group Therapy

“No man is an island…”, but it may feel that way when you’re holed up in a practice room for hours on end.  Picture this: you’re out there floating in the middle of the ocean (practicing the many things you’re not good at), searching and hoping for a life raft to magically appear (figuring out that special way of using your air or trick that makes you nail the elusive high note) to keep you from drowning (giving up altogether).  It can be quite daunting, tiring, and frustrating to “go it alone”.  So, why don’t you change that?  Grab a fellow horn playing friend or two and get to work – together!

When you are in school, there are loads of opportunities to gather other horn players together and simply practice together.  You can start by asking, “hey, do you want to get together after rehearsal to play excerpts or duets?”  The other party will likely say, “YEAH!” So, then you bring a few duet books, some excerpts, and whatever else you like to play and go to town.


It’s a great idea to rotate parts when playing duets.  Both parties need to practice being the leader or the follower and there needs to be a balance of high and low playing.  It is likely that you will be sight-reading, so make it a goal to not stop when reading through the duet for the first time.  Make the initial read as close to a performance as possible so as to test your skills.  After your initial run-through, go back to the rough spots.  When intonation issues arise, stop to work them out.  Pay close attention to the other player’s tendencies and adjust.  As you encounter different playing/musical problems, do remember to speak to each other diplomatically and respectfully.  Also, remember to give each other compliments and ask how the other person achieves success on a particular skill- especially if it’s something that eludes you.


Practicing excerpts in groups can be extremely productive for many reasons.  First, if you have the parts for the entire horn section, you can practice the excerpt more accurately.  It is always helpful to have the accompaniment or harmony playing in your mind while performing an excerpt, and practicing in a group will help ensure that you’ll be able to aurally replicate the feeling of playing in a section when you’re actually playing alone. Secondly, if your friend is particularly good at one section of the excerpt, and you’re not, you can “pick their brain” about how they play or think about that section and vice versa. It is in these moments where you can really make quick strides.  I have watched my students practice like this and rapidly work problems out on their own- it’s quite remarkable! Next, practice playing the excerpts for each other like you are in an audition setting.  Have your friends listen to you critically and provide feedback (with diplomacy and respect, of course).  Lastly, when you play excerpts together, you feed off each others’ energy. For example, maybe you are shy and reserved about playing loudly, but when you’re in the group, you go for it because you feel safe.  Before you know it, your confidence will start to build!


Play solo literature with and for your friends and share your musical ideas with one another.  When you do this, you’re practicing performing, execution, and stage presence. You’re also preparing yourself for possible future master classes that people will ask you to give because you’re so successful!


One of my most favorite things to do with fellow musicians on any instrument is to simply “make stuff up”.  You can start this in a group session by playing a consistently rhythmic groove and encouraging others to play to it.  Keep the groove going until it starts to “catch” and everyone involved is feeling free to improv on top of the line.  Then, you can start changing things up.  When you’re playing like this, all sorts of great things start to happen- you work on taking perceived musical risks, intonation, trusting your ear, and being sensitive to others’ musical ideas – IN THE MOMENT.  Once you experience this musical freedom in a positive light, you will feel more confident when you return to written music and/or if called upon to improv in a performance.

“If I could solve all the problems myself, I would.”

–Thomas Edison

“Many hands make light work.”

–John Heywood


TCU Horn Ensemble @ TMEA!

It’s finally here – the biggest week in Texas music education! Beginning tonight, musicians, students, teachers, and exhibitors will gather on the riverwalk of San Antonio to celebrate, learn about, and further the art of music via the Texas Music Educators Association convention.

The next 3 days will be a whirlwind filled with reminiscing with old friends and colleagues, meeting new ones, sharing ideas, laughs, and the occasional tex-mex meal.  For eleven years, I have had the pleasure of experiencing TMEA as either a college student, a performer, and/or an exhibitor for TrumCor Mutes.  At long last, I look forward to making my debut as director of an ensemble!  I am entering my second semester teaching horn at Texas Christian University, and I am so proud to announce that the TCU Horn Ensemble and I will be taking the TMEA Showcase Performance stage on Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 1pm.

If you are planning to be at the San Antonio Convention Center near the Exhibit hall this week during TMEA, please stop by the CC East Registration area to hear the TCU Horn Ensemble perform works by Dennis Klophaus, Tchesnekov, Mendelssohn, Eric Ewazen, and David Baptist on Thursday at 1pm.

We can’t wait to play for you!

Also, please stop by and visit me at the TrumCor Mutes booth #3319 to find out all the scoop on the TCU HornFest coming up in March. You will be able to get registered for the event and can even visit Pender’s Music for any music you may need.

Jury Duties

The football season is either winding down or gearing up as the leaves are now falling and the sun goes down before dinner time.  Local coffee shops are rolling out their autumnal spiced caffeinated creations, and holiday sale announcements are already a mainstay on the airwaves.  Ahhhh, it must be that time of the semester when solo juries are looming on the horizon.

This single event takes weeks if not months of planning.  You not only have to practice and prepare the piece(s), but you have to coordinate rehearsals, times, and locations with your pianist so that you have a smooth-running performance at your jury.  Time is of the essence here, so act now!

Some questions you will want to ask and answer in your preparations are:

What are you going to play this semester? You should choose a piece that will both challenge your weaknesses and display your strengths.  Many times, if a student is having a tough time with lyrical, smooth playing, I will help them choose a piece that focuses on that type of playing.  If a student is shy about loud, articulate playing, I will suggest a piece that covers those issues and so forth.  You should never play the same jury piece twice.  Use each semester’s jury performance as a way to study your instrument’s repertoire.  Make sure you study the standard pieces for your instrument.

Have you purchased your solo and piano part?  You should always purchase the music you are going to perform.  It is an infringement of copyright laws to play from copies that are not from an original you own. Additionally, how will you ever build your music library if you never purchase music?  If we don’t support our publishers, composers, and arrangers, what will be their incentive to continue to create and produce great music for us to play?

If you ordered your solo online, is it going to arrive in time for your first rehearsal?  So, you ordered the music, but it’s backordered for the next 2 months.  How will this help you when your jury is in 2 weeks?  You will need to make preparations to cancel that order and get it faster from someplace else OR change pieces to one that is available quickly.

Do you know the date and time of your performance?  Obviously, you need to know this vital information so that you don’t miss your jury or double book yourself, but you also need this information when you are looking for your accompanist. Speaking of which, Have you hired your pianist and checked their availability for your jury date and scheduled rehearsals?  Good pianists are busy and usually booked months before your jury date.  If you desire a good pianist, HIRE THEM AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!  If you wait too long, you may not get so lucky.  Most likely, you are going to want one or two rehearsals with your accompanist before the actual jury.  It is always a good idea to have one of those rehearsals with your private teacher there to help facilitate any musical or logistical issues that arise.  Can you get the music to your pianist ahead of time so they can prepare?  Maybe your pianist lives an hour away from your school and won’t be able to meet you in the near future to get the music. You can either mail it to them or scan it and attach to an email.  Did you get their email address and contact info?  Once you’ve set up times to rehearse, you must consider Do I have a location in which to rehearse?  Sometimes, when you’re a student, you don’t always have reliable access to a room with a piano.  You may want to defer to the accompanist on this one.  He or she may have access to a great rehearsal space.  Your professor may also be able to help you out in reserving a place at your school to rehearse.  Do you have the money to pay your pianist?  You should be prepared to pay your pianist the day of the performance, preferably beforehand, so that you don’t forget to do so afterward.  It is extremely important that you budget for this expense.  In order to do that, you must ask the pianist what they will charge you for rehearsals and the performance.  Never hire someone for a job that you are not able to pay for. Start saving for this event at the beginning of the semester if need be.

Do you need a mute?  If so, what kind will you need?  If you’re running out of time, maybe you can borrow one.  However, every music major at the college level should invest in a decent straight mute.  You might as well use this opportunity to purchase one.

Did you put your name and contact information on the music originals? This suggestion seems silly, but you’d be surprised how many pieces get lost simply because the pianist doesn’t know who played what or how to get a hold of them after the performance.  After a day or two of playing for multiple students, the details of ownership can sometimes get blurred.  If your name, phone number, and email address are on your music, it should be pretty clear who the music belongs to.  That being said, remember to get your original back from your accompanist after the performance.

Lastly, please dress nicely for your jury.  Before the jury panel hears you play a note, they will see you.  Dressing nicely will start the jury off right, and it shows that you care as much about your visual presentation as you do your audio performance.

If you address the aforementioned items, you can rest assured that you have done your part toward having a relaxed, enjoyable jury. Take a deep breath, and have fun sharing your performance with your teachers and peers.


Bad planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”      -proverb