It’s probably too late for this summer, but here’s an idea for next summer: go to horn camp. Any horn camp. You’ll get to hear new ideas and meet people and do things you might not get to do (or do much of) during the year.

I also recommend attending the IHS Symposium whenever you can. The past two years have been in the US (Denver and Macomb); next year it will be in Brisbane, Australia, which may make it tough for USA’ans to get there. Symposia are terrific because of the panoply, plethora, and cornucopia of offerings – rooms full of equipment, sheet music, accessories, CDs, and a full schedule of lectures, presentations, masterclasses, and concerts, concerts, concerts, a Macy’s Day parade of superb soloists. There are also chances to play in ensembles.

But a symposium, as glorious as it is, is not the same as horn camp. In horn camp, it’s more about you, than them. It’s about giving you a high density of learning experiences of all kinds. In symposia, you wonder at the soloists from afar. In horn camp, you pass them the salt and tell them your horn secrets and dreams and call them by their first name and share jokes. The faculty are there for you from early to late and do everything they can to help you, guide you, and stuff you with ideas to take home and use the rest of the year.

You will also meet other highly motivated players like yourself, and, besides making the whole experience more enjoyable, you may end up acquiring new life-long friends, who you will see again at other camps, symposia, corresponding with via email or Facebook. Or, perhaps they may be on the audition committee some day when you are auditioning…

Horn camps are not just for the young. They are for anyone at any age or stage of development who wants a more intense experience in horn playing. Horn camps are like immersion camps for foreign language students. The concentrated schedule and atmosphere accelerates learning.

Band, orchestra, or chamber music summer camps are also wonderful experiences and highly recommended. But they’re not the same as horn camps, where you really focus on instrumental technique, musicality, and performance.

You also get to hear a lot of other folks perform, both the faculty and the students. It’s enlightening.

I have done orchestra and band camps. My main horn camp experience comes from 5 years working at the Kendall Betts Horn Camp in New Hampshire. There are other horn camps, but the recipe is similar everywhere. A day is like this:

Breakfast at 7:10 a.m.

Masterclass (or discussion of selected topics) 8:30 -11:30. Faculty (12-14 of us) sometimes will have “Open Studio” on a specific topic (trills, improv, low range, high range, dealing with nerves, auditioning, etc etc) which any participant may attend.

Lunch 12:00-1:00

Private lesson 1:00-2:00 or 2:00-3:00

Horn ensemble 3:00-4:00

Free time: 4:00-6:30 pm

Dinner (and the food is great!): 6:30-7:30

Evening program 7:30-9:00 (or 10:00 or 10:30, depending) – faculty and participant recitals, presentations, horn history, etc.

Participants range from 15 to 80 years old, students, adult amateurs, professionals, and hail from all corners of the country with a few from abroad. The staff consists of a half dozen or so highly proficient horn players (and I do mean highly) who are there to make things run smoothly, as well as study and perform themselves; terrific people, all. The faculty are 12-14 top horn teachers from all over. KBHC also has an international star on its faculty: horn legend Hermann Baumann, who works with everyone who wants to play a solo on recital night. The other person everyone sees is Kendall Betts himself, who has devoted himself to putting together this amazing experience for the past 15 years.

The locale for KBHC is Camp Ogontz – a rustic campus (with 100 buildings altogether) on a lake with a view of the mountains – a real ‘camp’ in the best sense.

Check out KBHC (www.horncamp.org) and any other horn camp that you hear about (the Horn Call usually has advertisements). You can read about one man’s experience at KBHC: Jasper Rees has written a popular book about learning horn in midlife called The Devil to Play, which has a feature on his time at camp. Consider saving up your pennies and attending a horn camp. You will never regret it. If you’re a young up-and-coming highly motivated horn student, your horn education is not complete until you have been to one of these. If you’re an adult who has played horn for some time but feels the need for some new input and some contact with other players, this is the place for you.

Make a Post-It note now and put it in a prominent place: HORN CAMP