5 Q's for JoshJosh is one of those extraordinary teenagers that seems to have it all: great grades, major musical talent, outgoing personality, lots of friends and a bright future in music. He plays french horn in his high-school wind ensemble and piano in jazz band. This year, he attained his goal of auditioning into the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra horn section. Josh plans to pursue music in college.
Primary Instrument: French Horn
Secondary Instrument: Piano
Additional Instrument: Bass Clarinet
MUSIC I PLAY: Jazz, Classical
MUSIC I LISTEN TO: Jazz, Classical, Pop, Electronic
PRIVATE LESSONS: Yes
YEAR I GRADUATE HIGH-SCHOOL: 2014
1. How do you approach improvisation?
The way I approach improvisation is probably quite similar to how most people deal with it. I want my solos to be free and full of my inner thoughts, but not forget the fact that my music still needs to communicate. When I’m playing a solo improvisation, I want my audience to be drawn into what I’m jamming on and not allow them to think about anything else. That doesn’t necessarily mean playing the fastest runs, or the most interesting chord progressions, but something that the audience can relate to. I also think its best that we musicians use our instruments to our advantage— each instrument is unique and has a voice that is completely different from one another. Playing something that suits the tone and timbre of our particular instrument is very important. As a pianist, I have a humongous range and the ability to play many voicings at once, which I take advantage of.
2. What makes you play the way you play? (Influences? Where do you find inspiration? Group vs solo?)
I tend to be more of a lyrical player than a technical one. I’ve grown up listening to tons of slow, lyrical violin sonatas and cello suites that my parents always used to play in our house back when I was very little. Even though I don’t play a string instrument, I still try to imitate the phrasing of master string musicians such as Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma. I believe that there are lots of things that can be learned from listening to different instruments. Very frequently, I’ll be tackling a new etude at home and I’ll look at a certain passage and say, “Oh, I think this will sound nice if I try to sound light like a high woodwind,” or “This should be heavy and broad like the tuba.” I get most of my inspiration from San Francisco Symphony’s recordings of Mahler symphonies. Their interpretation and playing are just so precise and brilliant, and these recordings inspired me to become a musician in the first place.
3. When you're frustrated & want to quit, what makes you come back to your instrument?
The horn is such a versatile instrument—the famous Tchaikovsky’s 5th symphony horn solo, the horn call from Wagner’s Siegfried, the horn solo from Brahms’3rd symphony, and the opening horn call from Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel, all convey emotions that are drastically different from one another, but are all part of the standard repertoire that all horn players should know. The horn is special in a way that it can be used in so many different moods. In addition to its versatility, it has such a lovely sound. Listening to a good horn concerto after an extremely tiring day makes all the stress go away. I love that about the horn. It has a voice that can soothe anyone’s mind. Even though I get frustrated very often playing the horn, its sound is something I just can’t stay away from.
4. How does pressure ('good' or 'bad') affect your performance?
Pressure is something I’ve learned to deal with since I was little. I started playing the piano when I was very little and entered thousands of competitions, so I naturally got rid of any kind of stage fright I had. Playing an audition, however, is quite different. It’s tough when I see people in front that are ready to judge me. It does affect me negatively. My breaths get shallower and I sometimes choke up, so I constantly need to remind myself that I need to relax.
5. Parent support directly affects musical achievement. How does parent support look in your family? How does it affect your ability to succeed?
My parents are very generous in supporting my musical career. They have had to deal with my late-night practicing since forever ago. My horn lessons are extremely pricey and my teacher lives fairly far from where we live, but they still provide the money and the ride. Whenever there is a cool concert coming up, they offer to buy me tickets. It affects my ability to succeed because I’m open to so many opportunities to hear great symphonies played by great orchestras, a type of experience which in some cases can be life-changing. Also, I’ve been fortunate enough to study with the assistant principal horn of the San Francisco Symphony, a privilege that not many people can have.