I am both a 4th grade teacher and a musician. I went to music school before returning to earn an elementary education degree. I still play (French horn) in three community groups and now and then for other occasions. This past Sunday was a special day in my musical life. The concert band that both my husband and I play in had its last concert of the year and our daughter, who also plays horn, and I were featured on a solo.
The road to this solo performance was winding and full of roadblocks.
Every fall, any band member who is interested can audition for a chance to play a solo with the band. Generally two or three players are chosen. The first couple of years it was all woodwind players and I thought the brass really needed to be represented. However, I didn't want to play a solo by myself. So, I asked one of the other horn players if he wanted to audition with me on a concerto for two horns. He said sure. He also felt that we needed to give the woodwind players some friendly competition. We planned to work on it over the summer. Well, it seemed we were never in town at the same time. Fall came and he said he just didn't have time to learn the part, which was quite challenging. End of story, I thought.
I was telling my daughter Jamie what happened and she said, "I could do it with you." Well, she's not a member of the band. She's a busy graduate student. She doesn't live with us. But she already knew one of the parts. So I said I would ask the conductor if we could audition even though she isn't in the band. Much to my surprise he said yes. She did fill in at one concert, so he said that was close enough.
The next challenge for me was that the part Jamie already knew was the part that I had planned to play. So I needed to learn the other part, which is very high, requiring strong muscles to repeatedly hit notes at the top of the horn range. Like training for a marathon, say, this required a lot of practice time to build up the endurance.
This "double concerto" for two horns was written by Antonio Rosetti, a contemporary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Rosetti was German, despite his name, which he changed, probably because Italian musicians were paid more than Germans in the 18th century. He was a court musician in one of the many small courts in what is now Germany. He had two outstanding horn players in his orchestra, for whom he wrote at least 17 concertos, plus 6 double concertos. His music is rarely played today.
We auditioned last September and were one of three soloists chosen. Our concert was the May performance.
Next roadblock: The Band music is rental only. The school district that sponsors our band ordered the music. Through some miscommunication somewhere, the wrong concerto arrived. It was only 4 weeks before the concert. The conductor told me he thought it was not possible to return the parts and get the correct music in time to prepare it for the concert. End of story, I thought.
But no, my husband was determined that we would play. He called the rental company and explained the problem so persuasively that the correct music arrived at our house two days later! We had two rehearsals with the band and then it was time for the concert.
People are surprised that I get nervous when performing, but it's true. This time, though, it was such a joy to play this charming little piece with Jamie, that my mind was only on the music and the pleasure of playing. A perfect performance? No, but I think we communicated the spirit of the piece.
Seize the moment! So many roadblocks along the way and this may very well be the only time that Jamie and I solo together in public. It's a great memory to have.