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Diary of a YouTube Symphony Orchestra tryout: Meet the horn player

October 29, 2010 |  9:00 am

Whenever I tell people I have a master's degree in French horn performance (which is usually only to secure a win in a most-useless-degree contest), they are shocked to find that aside from one weekend Christmas gig with a friend two years ago, I haven't played since I graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England, in September 2004.

Why don't I keep it up? they always ask.  The main reason is that, lovely as it is, the French horn is a social instrument. It needs other horns or, even better, an orchestra to really shine.  Noodling around on the piano or guitar is satisfying as a solitary activity.  The horn, not so much.

Why, then, don't I join an amateur orchestra?  Mainly, the rehearsals.  In my experience, amateur orchestra rehearsals are an end in themselves.  Two hours of chitchat every week punctuated by a bit of playing and then, every four months or so, a concert is given.  This makes me crazy.  It's not that I'm too good for rehearsal, it's that I'd rather get it done in three to four sessions and do my socializing in the pub.

Practicing was difficult enough when I was playing every day.  Now that there's nothing to stay in shape for, there's no chance. But what if there was?

Two weeks ago, I took issue on Culture Monster with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra for taking what was essentially a fun-sounding week of orchestra camp and blowing it out of proportion into something totally novel and world-changing. PR quibbles aside, the YouTube Symphony Orchestra is still an interesting project, especially considering winners get to go to Australia for seven days on Google's dime.

Amateur endeavors like orchestra, theater or choir are always more meaningful to the participant than the observer, so in the interests of journalism, I'm going gonzo -- or at least auditioning to do so.

The last day for uploading the video is Nov. 28,  which gives me 33 days to get ready. All the audition pieces are standard rep, which means for me the main challenge will be building up enough muscle strength and endurance to play everything the way I would like. 

The end goal is to submit a video that won't send the audition panel into fits of hysterics.  As of today, I could easily pass for a middle-school beginner with a preternatural grasp of the fingering chart.

I'll be checking in on Culture Monster from time to time throughout the next four weeks, but for the moment, my horn is calling.

-- Marcia Adair


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