Today’s Kaddish is one horn pedagogue Verne Reynolds might have appreciated: once again I was backstage at the opera in a loud stairwell with only iTalk, a recording app that has no gain control, so I had to play “Kaddish” sotto voce the whole way through.
Verne Reynolds spent most of his career as a horn prof at Eastman, and I almost went there to study with him. From the horror stories I’ve heard about his tyrannical teaching, it might have been just as well that I went elsewhere. Then again, where I ended up for grad school was no picnic, either.
Still, I count Verne Reynolds as an important teacher. His fiendishly difficult 48 Etudes were the centerpiece of my studies with Dr John Deal at the University of North Dakota when I studied with him during my high school years. A trumpet player, Dr Deal didn’t—I think—fully appreciate how hard these etudes were to play on horn! But that turned out to be a very good thing for me. Since Dr Deal didn’t think it should be any big deal for me to play them, I didn’t either, so I worked my ass off, and those beastly etudes gave me rich rewards in the years since.
To this day, when I need to whip my technique into shape, I turn to the 48 Etudes.
I even played a few of them for a wedding once—it was a solo horn gig, and I mean solo. Unaccompanied horn. Just me. Can you say “naked”? The other problem is that there isn’t a whole huge amount of solo horn literature, and I had something like forty-five minutes to fill. Perhaps it was desperation that reminded me that some of the etudes are almost catchy, so I programmed them.
I wish I could report that the bride with the funny taste is still happily married the guy with the indulgent taste, but this was a mercenary gig. The paycheck I got after the ceremony was the last time I ever saw her name, which I’ve long since forgotten.
A kaddish for the guy who wrote the etudes that keep us horn players humble: Verne Reynolds was 84 when he died on 28 June 2011.