White Mountains National Forest, New Hampshire...

White Mountains National Forest, New Hampshire (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

My rustic office has only one wall. My laptop is on a table against the outside of the log cabin camp office. It’s horn camp time again – I’m back for my annual two weeks at the Kendall Betts Horn Camp at Camp Ogontz in the beautiful White Mountains of upstate New Hampshire. Most days I will be pretty busy and may not have time to do much internetting; this office is the only building of the 100 Camp Ogontz buildings that has wifi – if you’re not sitting right here, no wifi, which, after you go through your withdrawal symptoms – wonderful. Without electronic distractions, the brain can think and plan and speculate and conjour again. Without being in thrall to electrons for a change, stuff can happen. Do you think Bach would have been able to do a fourth of what he turned out if he had had email?

So I can do an occasional quick email fix here (ok, and to play a bit of Hanging with Friends), but all the rest of the time, I get to focus on horn. And thinking about horn.  I filled several pages of horn/music/technique thoughts in my notebook last night and early this morning, something I haven’t done for a while (perhaps not since last year’s camp…). Man, it felt good. To have the peace and lack of distraction to think again. And try stuff. And write it down.

Cover of "An Officer and a Gentleman (Spe...

A few years ago my pianist collaborator Evan Mazunik and I got a creative residency at the Centrum in Port Townsend, Washington (west – yes, west – of Seattle), which is located on an old coastal army base (used as the location for the film Officer and a Gentleman with Richard Gere some years ago). They supplied each of us a little “house.” Bedroom. Living room. Kitchen. That’s it. No phone. No internet. No mail. No radio. No TV. No newspaper. Just time and space. It was great. We met every day for breakfast, then worked until noon (worked = talked, planned, tried out new pieces for our repertoire; CD coming up). Lunch. Work for a good bit, then take a stroll around the area (paths through woods, gorgeous vistas of the bay, beach) to get some air and exercise and clear the grey cells. Dinner, some personal work time, maybe one more session in the evening. We got an enormous amount done in those two weeks. All that was needed was to step back a century or so and cut out all electricity except for lights.

That’s sort of what the story is here at horn camp. A dozen faculty, forty some passionate horn players of all levels and ages, and electricity only for lights. So the distractions are cut way down and you can hear yourself think. I have today off – camp starts this evening with a big meeting and organization for the coming week. Tomorrow morning the routine begins: 3 hours of masterclasses in the morning. 2 lessons in the afternoon, followed by horn ensemble. Evening: presentations or recitals/concerts.

Did I mention the food? Scrumptious. Accommodations are rustic, but perfect for the surroundings, and boy, do you sleep well here with all the activity and the mountain air.

Paradise. You’ll have to excuse me. I have to practice. And think.

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