Five Things To Keep in Mind as a Music Student

We are very excited to feature Bri Ihasz – a french horn student with some great things for all of us to keep in mind about music.

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Bri Ihasz is currently a junior studying Horn Performance and the University of Michigan. The daughter of two musicians, Ihasz grew up surrounded by music in a small town south of Buffalo, NY. She absolutely loves the Michigan School of Music, but she’s also involved in other activities, such as being a part of the marketing team for a local independent record label and being a sister of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority. She hopes to one day move to LA and either find work playing in lab orchestras or working for record labels.

Thanks, Bri, for sharing your thoughts with the Brass Chicks community!

“Wow, I’ve heard it’s a really hard instrument to play. And you’re at Michigan. You must be SO good.”

This is the response I get every single time someone tells me I’m a horn performance major. And ok, I get it. I had to be at least halfway decent to get into this school. Horn is absolutely terrible to learn. I sounded like a dying elephant until approximately three years ago. Like, yeah I’m good, but I got good VERY recently. Point being, conversations like this can make it feel like there’s twice the pressure. Not only do you put pressure on yourself to do well, but you feel the pressure of strangers’ expectations. The weight of this concept literally crushed me into mental ruin last year, and so something I’ve been focusing on recently is the following phrase:


1.
“It’s not a big deal.”

Sounds pretty freaking dumb. Okay, yes, definitely. But there’s nothing wrong with simplicity. And I guess that’s what I’m getting at with that mantra. For example, think of a general challenge a brass player would face.

2. Relax in Technical Passages. If you encounter a difficult passage with double tonguing, don’t worry. RELAX. It’s so hard to train our bodies to not react with increasing heart rate and shaky hands just because there’s an increasing amount of black ink condensed on a page. As one of my old horn teachers used to tell me, “Just read the black off the white.” Simple in principle. In fact, I always got so annoyed when he used to say it. But almost six years later, I finally understand. It’s so much better to breathe deeply and calmly and play an excerpt or an etude or a solo smoothly, rather than frantically spazzing your way through it.

3. Relax in high passages also! Playing high is the plight of all brass players. Again, all of my teachers have told me this, but it’s taken me almost 11 years of playing to realize that they were right all along. Nerves are directly connected to tension, which decreases air amount and increases the amount that muscles in the face have to work to produce a note. I’ve found recently that the less I care about how many ledger lines are under a note, the more likely I am to miss it. Because truly, it’s really not a big deal.

4. Get Some  Perspective. And perhaps most importantly, music isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Now before everyone gets mad at me, hear me out. As a child of two musicians, music has always been the be-all-end-all. I felt I was under so much pressure to be perfect at my instrument, which in my mind meant locking myself in a practice room all day every day. I envisioned going to a music conservatory my entire life, and somehow I ended up going to a Big 10 school.

5. Get a life. Gradually I’ve realized that being a professional musician does not mean sacrificing your happiness for your art; rather, they can be synonymous. I still love music with all my heart. But I also love my non-musician friends, my sorority, and spending time away from the music school. And when there’s a space of time where I don’t practice, I just have to bring myself back to the core of it. It’s really not a big deal. And in my experience, brushing off the pressure has really helped me find motivation inside myself to enrich myself in my art, without having to force myself to become that stereotypical isolated musician.

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