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Thread: 20+ years off the horn: a registry

  1. 20+ years off the horn: a registry

    "I've picked up the horn again after 30 years ... "

    This story repeats itself again and again on the forum, so perhaps it would be of interest to gather these stories under one thread.

    I'll kick it off!

    OK, trumpet wasn't working out, but I must have seemed determined to continue making loud noises, so the director put a baritone in my hands. Time passed, and I found myself in my high school baritone section with players possessing better natural chops than I, but I was a maniac and would not let myself be beaten. Somehow I made All-State Band as a 9th-grader -- high-school all-state in those days was grades 9-12 -- as fourth chair, but there I was. (Clearly it was a bad year for baritones.)

    Around age 14 I discovered I had a decent-working set of vocal cords, so my development as a vocalist began at that point. (Baritone voice, like the horn.)

    Entered my local university music program and took a degree in voice performance, but sold both my horns during that interval (big mistake).

    I'd say the horn hiatus began around 1973. Grad studies in vocal music ensued, but terminated in musical burnout.

    My peculiar gift for language steered me into graduate studies in German, leading to a Master's and a career path as a language teacher. All the while, I never stopped doing music; performed in semi-pro madrigal groups, symphony choruses and the like. (Important added benefit: that's how I met my wife, a soprano.)

    Funny, though: often, while reading the bass line in a choral score, my subconscious would motivate my right hand to press imaginary valves; over a period of three decades, that instinct was never extinguished. Nor did I stop feeling inspired whenever I heard the majesty of a symphonic brass section in concert; my daydreams of playing a brasswind never really went away.

    After completing my third, and terminal, university degree ('terminal' is an appropriate designation, as it just about killed me), I decided to celebrate my accomplishment -- and pay raise -- with the purchase of a proper euphonium. Incredible dumb luck brought a used Sterling into my hands. I got out the old
    Arban and Rochut and Blazhevich books, joined a community band, and never looked back.

    Elapsed time off the horn: thirty-three years, more or less. The Brits would probably say of me, "he's bloody useless, but awfully sincere." But the satisfaction I feel after a good concert or rehearsal is hard to express.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Valley City, North Dakota

    20+ years off the horn: a registry

    I've documented most of my journey elsewhere on this site, but will regurgitate it here in a proper thread.

    I grew up an Air Force brat. Bouncing around the world in my early years (North Dakota, Utah, Alaska, Florida, Minnesota, California, Panama). In 1982 we moved back to North Dakota, and in 1983 we moved off base and into the school district I would complete high school in.

    I transferred to Thompson Public School in 8th grade. This was the first opportunity I had to play an band teacher, Mrs. Moe, encouraged me to play "baritone". I spent every study hall, mornings before class, and significant after school time ramping up to learn the instrument. I had ZERO musical training beforehand, so I had a steep learning curve. After a summer of driving my parents crazy, I was proficient enough to play in the high school band come 9th grade.

    I continued to be very dedicated throughout high school. Making 1st chair in every honor band I was elected to (which was several), getting "stars" in district and state-wide music competitions, and overall having a blast with my euphonium.

    In the summer of 1987 (the summer before my senior year in high school), I attended the International Music Camp at the Peace Gardens in ND/Canada (on the border). This was my first opportunity to study under James Thornton (former principal euphonium soloist with the "President's Own" Marine band). I had a great week, was first chair in the concert band, and started taking music even more seriously.

    In the summer of 1987, I also purchased and became proficient with the trombone. When my senior year started, I also picked up the tuba. I was first chair on trombone with the jazz and pep bands, low brass section leader with the concert band, and filled in on tuba when needed (we had no other tuba players at the time). My senior year ended with me winning the John Phillip Sousa award, participating in several honor bands, and doing quite well at state with all three instruments (received stars for tuba and euphonium solos at state). I was also active in vocals during this period of time, but never took it all that seriously.

    Post-high school, I spent another week at the International Music Camp so I could spend some more time with Mr. Thornton. He encouraged me to pursue music in college...and that was the plan.

    I entered college in the fall of 1988 as a euphonium performance major. I also played tuba in the marching band and trombone in the pep band. I lasted one semester before I, basically, drank myself out of college. Having no other options (at least in my eyes), I enlisted in the Air Force. After a brief stint in basic training and tech school on the baritone bugle, my music career was over (1989).

    Fast forward 21 years (2010). My oldest child (Amanda, 11) started in the 5th grade band playing trumpet. I purchased a cheap trumpet to help her learn the basics. After she was off and running, I started to get the itch to play my primary instrument, the euphonium. I put feelers out this year (2011) for any community bands that would welcome a VERY rusty euphonium player. I decided on a Shriners band (I'm a fairly new Shriner). I missed the last winter (pre-parade season) practice, but they invited to me to join and start off with their upcoming Memorial Day parade (they play on a trailer). Not optimal, but I'll take it.

    So, next I needed an actual instrument. I wanted something that I could grow into, but that wouldn't cost an arm and a leg. Fortunately, I was able to read up here on the Schiller Elite compensating euphonium. Basically, a copy of the Yamaha 642, at a fraction of the price. I made the trip up the Stevens Point, WI (I currently reside near Madison), and came home with a shine nickel-plated one.

    Bought the Arban Complete Method book and have been plugging away at it as my chops will allow me. There is a LOT of rust to knock off...but I am really enjoying it!

    Larry Herzog Jr.
    Schiller Elite (3+1 compensating) euphonium (nickel-plated)
    Denis Wick SM4U mouthpiece (gold-plated)

    Twitter: iMav
    Facebook: larry.herzog
    Founder of

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    San Diego, California

    20+ years off the horn: a registry

    I pursued euphonium during junior high, after band director informed me I would be playing euphonium and not last chair trumpet any longer.

    I enjoyed the instrument through high school, even managing to acquire music scholarships. After reaching college burn-out after only two years and dropping out, I eventually pursued piano and keyboards in a variety of different types of bands. All along the way pursuing a totally different career path other than music for the past 25 years.

    Last November (2010), my interest in euphonium reappeared after dusting off my old YEP 321 which was placed in the rafters of my garage/music studio. One thing led to another and I started practicing again and joined a fairly decent local community band.

    Thats my abreviated story.

    Miraphone 5050 Ambassador
    Mp: Wick SM4 Ultra X
    The San Diego Concert Band
    Big Brass Quartet- tuba ensemble (EETT)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    West Palm Beach, FL

    20+ years off the horn: a registry

    I started on trumpet (or cornet) when I was 12 (7th grade). Three and half years later my parents bought a house so we moved and changed school districts. Since it was mid-year and they already had enough trumpet players in this new HS, I had to switch to baritone. I didn't like it at first but after a month or so, I really got to liking its tenor voice. I played a 3 valve King (bent-bell) baritone for those 3 yrs. of HS. When I joined the Air Force in 1966, I was at Keesler AFB for a year of electronics and Radar training. As an extra curricular activity I joined the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps on base and played baritone bugle. The corps had 2-valve 'G' bugles back then (soprano, baritone, contra-bass). We had to memorize all of the music we played - about 35 numbers. We played and rehearsed every weekday. After my electronics and RADAR training, I didn't play a horn again for 33 years! After retiring from the FAA after 31 years as Systems Specialist, I decided to get back into music. I've been back to playing euph in two community bands and church band now for eleven years. Sure wish I hadn't waited so long to get back into music.

    Here's an image of a Getzen 'G' baritone bugle we played back in the '60s. There were only 2 valves, 1 piston, 1 rotor so you couldn't really play a chromatic scale.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Getzen G Bugle.jpg  
    Last edited by RickF; 03-21-2014 at 10:35 AM.
    Rick Floyd
    Miraphone 5050 - Warburton Brandon Jones sig mpc
    YEP-641S (recently sold)
    Doug Elliott - 102 rim; I-cup; I-9 shank

    "Always play with a good tone, never louder than lovely, never softer than supported." - author unknown.
    Symphonic Band of the Palm Beaches
    El Cumbanchero (Raphael Hernandez, arr. Naohiro Iwai)
    Greensleeves (arr. Alfred Reed)

  5. 20+ years off the horn: a registry

    I would like to say that as a high school player considering a musical career, your stories inspire me to not make the same mistake and fall out of playing. It's the thing I love most to do, and I hope that I will always love it. Thank you all so much for sharing!

  6. #6

    20+ years off the horn: a registry

    I started out on trumpet in 5th grade and did very well with it until 8th grade. That's when I met a guy a year older who had started a year later than the rest of us and had practiced like a maniac for 2 years to catch up. He got very good and would often practice close to 6 hours a day, more on than off, and he had endurance that I have never seen anybody else able to even approach. Over Easter vacation I went over to his house and mostly kept up with him, barely, for two days in a row. After I recovered, my range went from well over high C to barely able to play G at the top of the staff. My lip never did recover over the next 2 years having apparently permanently damaged the chop muscles. I learned that a "baritone" didn't take nearly the chops that a trumpet did and made the permanent switch in 10th grade.

    Played through high school very successfully and a little in college giving it up after being fatally bummed by the director's ongoing choices of music that I could barely make myself play. It was not at all enjoyable, just pure drudgery, and I walked away from music.

    I went into the Navy a few months later and played in the drum and bugle company in boot camp the last couple months I was there. Auditioned for a Navy band and blew it big time. After playing the one valve G/? bugle for some weeks, I had a heck of a time finding the note pitch during the audition. I apologized for wasting the guy's time but he was nice about it.

    I didn't touch a horn for the next 41 years when a community band started up in town and I heard the first 2 concerts. I got the band bug bad, got a horn, got my lip back eventually and 4 years later am enjoying the heck out of playing in the local community band, a summer parade band, and a church brass group.

  7. 20+ years off the horn: a registry

    My story isn't much different...played trombone in high school, switched over to french horn in college, where I majored in criminology. Graduated, went to work in law enforcement, and played with the alumni band for a bit, until time and distance constraints intervened. I worked nights, mostly, and spent 20 years umpiring fast pitch softball. Had some life events (mother and mother-in-law dying 8 months apart and a round with breast cancer) and decided that I wanted to play music again. Rather than pick up the trombone again (my horn was off with my nephew, who was in HS at the time) I decided to play euphonium. Bought me a nice ISO off of ebay, and went to the local New Horizons to be an "over 40 middle school band" member again. There were 2 other euph players and no tuba players, and I let it slip that I had played a smattering of tuba in both high school and college. I ended up playing the tuba, and haven't looked back. I play in a community band, a marching band, and a tuba ensemble, and cannot believe that I didn't keep music in my life. So glad I made it back.

  8. I see this is a necro-thread, but I'll add my story, short as it is. I played cornet for two years in grade school. I sucked and had little motivation. My band director hated my guts, I didn't care for his guts. Honestly I don't think he was a fan of anyone's guts. Hard to imagine why such a hateful guy taught grade school music all those years. Anyway I dropped out and never looked back. Fast forward 30+ years and my son picked up the trumpet and I thought I'd try it.

    I got a one octave scale back with effort and decided to look for my own trumpet. I saw a craigslist add for a trumpet for $50, opened it and it was an Olds Standard Trombone. I had been looking and knew an Olds was worth more than $50. I bought it thinking I would flip it on ebay. But when I tried it my 45 year old chops were clearly better suited low brass. I played it for awhile to where I could read music and play (badly) some old hymns, but I wanted valves.

    Scanning ebay I saw an old "baritone" that looked like it had been painted black. It had tape on the leadpipe and all slides were stuck as well as the mouthpiece. I put a minimum bid of $25 bucks on it and shockingly nobody else wanted it, lol. I got the horn in the mail and realized it wasn't painted, it was tarnished black. I got the slides unstuck with heat and liquid wrench, got the tarnish off and took it in to repair the leadpipe and a couple dents and ended up with a respectable old silver euph. I'm practicing every day about 40 minutes, not a maniac, I would like to be able to play in church and do duets with my son (who has excelled on the trumpet--first chair, only trumpet in his school to go to district band in 7th grade).

    When I come into my kingdom and have some spare dough I'd like to get a nicer horn.

  9. OK, I'll play along too. Interesting thread...

    I started out in grade school on tenor sax, then briefly to cornet, then to "baritone" (which as I understand it may have been an Americanized three valve non-compensating euphonium--"baritone" is easier to say ) I continued to play in high school, got my Besson euphonium (which I still have) at the beginning of my HS senior year (1971), and also played two years in the university symphonic band. At that point, I kind of re-prioritized and decided I didn't have time for all of those long rehearsals as well as finding time to practice on my own, if I was going to keep my grades up. So I "quit". I didn't play hardly at all until a brief period about 12 years ago with a couple of Tuba Christmases in Montana, as well as one "Winds of Montana" gig, which was really fun (I got involved in that because I knew the director of same from church). I quit again after that, but now four USAF PCS moves later I am in Florida and found a niche in my church's orchestra a little over a year ago. Of course I was very rusty, but have been practicing almost every day, and find that I am enjoying playing more and more as I am regaining some of my lost ability. This is something old people can still do. I performed a solo, Dave Werden's arrangement of An Die Musik for our church offertory last August (stunk at rehearsal, did pretty well on Sunday), and am working on a few other things for a few weeks from now. Wish me luck...

    P.S.: I love my old Besson, especially since we have "history", but some of the things I have read here make me want to try out one of the newer high end horns. I am afraid though if I do, I will have to buy it.
    Last edited by daniel76309; 02-08-2013 at 02:13 PM.

  10. #10
    French horn for about 3 months in seventh grade (1968), got sick of schlepping the bloody thing. (Ever try to carry a french horn case 1.5 miles to and from school? Your leg banging up against that case every other step tends to want to divorce you.) Wanted to quit band, but the band director talked me into trying the trombone, which I stuck with through the rest of jr. high and high school. Taught myself "baritone" along the way in three clefs, though I still struggle a bit with alto clef. Graduated from high school and jobbed it for about 6 months, playing in a community band until I enlisted in the Army.

    Stayed in the Army a full 20-year career, the last 17 of which were as a euphoniumist, trombonist, and really awful trumpet player (hey, don't laugh - I've got two bugle jobs under my belt - heh). Retired from the Army 18 years ago and I haven't put the horn(s) down since and have even picked up bass trombone and tuba along the way.

    Euphin' is still what I prefer to do, though it's really, really hard not to fall in love with the best horn I've ever owned, an Edwards B454 bass trombone that practically plays itself.
    U.S. Army, Retired (built mid-1950s)
    Adams E2 Euph (built 2017)
    Boosey & Co. Imperial Euph (built 1941)
    Edwards B454 Bass Trombone (built 2012)
    Boosey & Hawkes Imperial Eb tuba (built 1958)
    Kanstul 33-T lBBb tuba (built 2010)

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