Thursday, June 3, 2010

One Flew Out of the Hornists' Nest

Following up my Next Steps from May 12 I have used the magical tool of Twitter to locate a real live professional hornist and teacher. (Thank you to clarinetist and G. Schirmer staffer, Ed Matthew, for the tip!) In addition to already giving me two much-needed tune-up lessons, my new teacher has graciously agreed to answer a few questions. Please join me in welcoming Mr. Peter Reit.

Virginia: Peter, if my research is correct, you've been in the Phantom of the Opera pit orchestra since the show opened on Broadway in 1988. (Which means that I heard you play on my high school drama club trip to NYC in 1994!) You're also Principal Horn for the Westchester Philharmonic, Greenwich Symphony and Scandia Symphony Orchestras, and Associate Principal Horn with the Stamford Symphony. You've performed with the New York Philharmonic, Orpheus Chamber Ensemble, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Mel Lewis Big Band, Bob Belden Ensemble, New York City Opera, American Ballet Theater, and toured extensively with American Symphony and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. You're also Professor of Horn at Purchase College, State University of New York, and serve on the faculty at the Hartt School of Music, Vassar College and the Music Conservatory of Westchester.

Can you give us a sense of what all of this looks like in any given week/month?

PR: It looks ridiculous!! Last year my schedule without any free lance jobs looked like this:

Mon - SUNY Purchase 11-4, Phantom 8pm
Tues - Vassar 9-3, Phantom 7pm
Wed - SUNY Purchase Student 10-11, Phantom 2pm, Private Student 5:15-6pm, Phantom 8pm
Thurs - SUNY Purchase 9-4, Phantom 8pm
Fri - Hartt School 3-9
Sat - Music Conservatory of Westchester 8-11, Phanton 2pm, Private Student 5-6pm, Phantom 8pm
Sun - Usually completely free only one Sunday per month due to church Jobs, free-lance concerts, recitals, etc.

I had to step down from the Hartt School because the schedule was too demanding to make up when I had to miss for free-lance jobs, so as of now I am no longer at Hartt.

Virginia: You've done a significant amount of studio work as well---radio jingles, television, and movie soundtracks. Anything we might recognize?

PR: Studio work has really really slowed down - I have done TV jingles - some are still out there - Campbell's Soup, Kraft Cheese, all sorts of drugs, themes for shows, HBO movies - nothing that comes to mind as being famous to recognize...nowadays most stuff is electronically done.

Virginia: I personally wanted to play the clarinet (like my sister) in 6th grade but the high school band director said "No, you want to play the French horn." Since he was god, I did it. (I had no earthly idea what a horn was.) What about you? Why the horn?

PR: I chose the drums - then one day my band director (yes - God) said, "Hey, kid, you can't roll. You're smart though - you need to play the French Horn."

"Huh?," I said. And the rest is history...

Virginia: In college I majored in horn and had my horn on my face for somewhere between 3-9 hours a day, counting all rehearsals and practice sessions. Then I quit cold turkey after playing my senior recital 9 years ago and now I have to start all over again. What's the longest you've ever gone without playing? Can real brass players take vacations?

PR: Some of the European Orchestra brass players are known to take off 2 months or so every summer - they have a routine for easing back into their jobs and say that their lips enjoy the break from their heavy workload. I think a few weeks to a month can be great, if your job keeps paying you!! Most players can't afford that much time off - I like to take at least a week to 10 days off in the summer when I can. Everyone is different - many players are not afraid to take some time off. The most I have taken off is just 2 weeks since I have played professionally - my jobs don't pay me not to play! I take weekends and days here and there throughout the year to keep my sanity.

Virginia: What's the prognosis? How long will it take for me to be a solid (OK, just decent) player again?

PR: 6 to 9 months is a good amount of time to let your muscles build - after that you should be able to do more serious practice - there aren't rules or guarantees however!! You are off to a good start though - just the chin - the ol' chin.

Virginia: Thanks, Peter! [Flattens chin, tightens corners down.]


  1. Congratulations on finding a consummate professional like Peter Reit to be your teacher!
    Elaine Carroll, Stamford Symphony

  2. Yeah, I guess he'll do...!
    This is great! I hope everything goes well with the lessons. I am trying to play at church once in a while and slaughtered my way through the first mvt. of the Gordon Jacob concerto for a faculty recital back in January. One of my challenges is to find a piano player who is willing to play some of this difficult music (I was laughed at when I suggested the 1st Strauss concerto, but it is kind of a ridiculous part). Keep us posted!

    (I forgot that I originally signed up for Blogger for one of my school webpages - so you can still call me Brad! :) )