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Last updated 11:13PM ET
April 23, 2018
Local Specials
Local Specials
Horns In The Heartland
(wium) - The annual International Horn Symposium has been held in places such as Beijing, Cape Town, and Valencia in past years. This year, it took place in Macomb.

Randall Faust says the symposium ended up in Macomb because he submitted a bid to host it. Faust is a hornist and professor at Western Illinois University.

Faust says he knew WIU could handle such a big event because it puts on many festivals and camps every year.

The symposium drew around 600 people from places as far flung as Australia, Japan, and Norway. They enjoyed the chance to hear many performances. There were also seminars and clinics to teach techniques on the six different kinds of horns: single, double, triple, descant, natural, and alp.

Scott Bacon is with Siegfried's Call in Beacon, NY. The business sells and repairs high performance brass instruments. Bacon considers the IHS the place to be.

"It's the biggest event every year for horn manufacturers, for horn shops, for horn players," says Bacon. "It's the biggest collection of artists and exhibitors every year."

David Amram performed and led seminars during the symposium. Amram is a world-renowned artist who's experimented with the horn in various musical genres. He says jazz legends such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie encouraged him to try different things with the horn.

"And that's true with almost every single instrument," says Amram. "It can be expanded upon its original usage if someone comes along who's artistic enough and dedicated enough to enhance what that instrument is supposed to be to take it to new places."

Some horns are machine made while others are handmade. One person who makes horns by hand is Dietmar Duerk of Germany.

"(For example), when I make a bell, I see with my eyes how it grows, how it works," says Duerk. "And I can feel with my fingers how the material - is it hard, is it soft, or is it how I want it? When a machine makes it, nobody knows. For me it's easier to make it with my hands and I can see what I make."

Most horns look similar to what was generally known as the French horn. The exception from the six styles of horns is the alphorn. It looks like the horn in ads for Ricola cough drops. It's 12 feet, three inches from the mouthpiece to the bell.

Lee Kessinger of East Moline says the length poses a unique challenge for musicians. "When you're playing the regular double horn, the sound is right by your right hip. But this is 12 feet away!" says Kessinger.

The theme for the 41 Annual International Horn Symposium was A Place To Study - A Place to Play. David Amram says it's important to play music because it's important to be creative.

"Music is a gateway for that, and for people to feel good about what they do and appreciate and respect one another. Music teaches you all of that," says Amram.

For one week in Macomb, horn players from around the world did exactly that.
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