Performing with a Purpose: Community Engagement that Endures

Co-presentation with Dr. Lauren Hunt

International Horn Symposium, Ghent, Belgium, July 2019

Northeast Horn Workshop, Hofstra University, February 2019

James Madison University, January 2019

In this presentation, we talk about creating diverse, interesting, forward-thinking, and inclusive musical experiences, and also how to take advantage of the unique opportunities that technology affords us. Our talk is especially relevant for those of us who were educated for 20th century careers, but by the time we graduated and began our own careers in the 21st century the world had shifted greatly. The two of us are both conservatory-trained horn players who teach at universities and perform with various orchestras. But we are also arts entrepreneurs and teaching artists with diverse careers who have worked with community engagement programs, performed and designed interactive concerts, and started ensembles from the ground up. As there are fewer orchestral positions available, due to longer careers, budgetary cuts, cultural apathy, and a larger pool of eligible players, music students have collectively found themselves in the strange situation of being unprepared for our careers outside of a narrow lens. Our goal for this presentation is for everyone to leave with new ideas for cultivating a purposeful, fulfilling, impactful career through lasting relationships with other musicians and their community.

Julius Watkins and Willie Ruff: Black Horn Players and Pioneers in Jazz

Lecture at the Southeast Horn Workshop, James Madison University, March 2017

Julius Watkins and Willie Ruff were/are two of the most under-appreciated musicians in their respective times. Both were/are phenomenal musicians who performed in the genres allowed to them based on their race. This lecture focuses on Julius Watkins, but briefly addresses Willie Ruff's significant contribution to the jazz horn world, and his influence on several generations of horn players. Jazz was the primary path available to African American musicians in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s and bebop was the right style of jazz for someone looking for solo opportunities. The fact that bebop’s speed and dense texture present a special challenge for the horn with its soft timbre, rotary valves, and close partials, only underscores Watkins’ great skill. In comparing his “Friday the 13th” solo to Dennis Brain’s Mozart K. 495 cadenza it is easy to see that Watkins was a horn player on par with the world’s most talented hornists of his age.