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For the 21st Century, From the 21st Century:
Commissioning Repertoire for American Sounds: World Premieres for Horn
by Steven Cohen
I believe that it is fair to say that throughout the world there is at least one French horn player playing one of the four Mozart concerti, one of the two Strauss concerti, the Beethoven sonata, or one of the Hindemith sonatas every minute of every day. These works are the standards from which many of us learn, educate, practice, and perform—as well as being the lifeblood of countless auditions, recitals, and performances. The majority of these, however, were composed hundreds of years ago. Today, we are fortunate enough to have incredible musicians composing for the horn. Yet, these 21st-century compositions remain absent from the standard repertoire.
In April 2017, I thought, “Why hadn’t James Niagus (whose familiar compositions are performed worldwide at universities and horn symposia and in workshops, recitals, and concerts) composed a sonata for the horn yet?” And, it occurred to me that I should commission it. Here we are a year later, and the work is being completed. That autumn, I began the process of developing what would become my debut album (release date: August 2018). In thinking about what I wanted to achieve with the project, I identified two goals. I wanted to create an album that would leave its mark in the horn community. And, I wanted to elevate the horn as a solo instrument in the 21st-century musical climate. Many musicians record simply to record. I wanted to create something that was new and different. As I began programming the album, I knew of only one composition that I absolutely wanted to record—James’s Sonata for Horn.
As I continued to program the album, I struggled to identify compositions that I wanted to record. There are a lot of albums of horn music out there, many of which contain the same repertoire—including those old familiar standards. With James’s sonata already on the docket, it was suggested to me that I create an album entirely of new compositions, and, like a fish chasing after a prime lure, I bit! As I thought more and more about the project, the idea stuck with me to commission a collection exclusively by American composers, and thus American Sounds: World Premieres for Horn was born! The question then was: how was I going to commission five new, major works?
Commissioning one work for a project is fairly straight forward, even two, but five is a different story. When I sat down to really look at what I had gotten myself into, I struggled with the idea of selecting four additional composers to commission, as I wasn’t certain where to start. Commissioning might sound easy, but there is a lot to it! The process of commissioning is not as simple as phoning a composer and asking, “Hey, could you write this?” It’s much more than that—it is a collaborative process. Many times, you are reaching out to someone that you do not know, and professionalism is key. There are also business elements to navigate—contracts, fees, performance and recording rights, etc.—any of which can derail this complex process if all parties are not in accord.
In searching for other composers to include, I took to social media, called friends, recalled workshops that I had attended, and listened to a lot of music! In taking stock of what we have already, I discovered that the horn community is very fortunate to have an astonishing and diverse collection of composer creating works for us—which made my decision even more difficult. Countless hours of reflection later, I picked up the phone and started reaching out to some of those composers. After numerous conversations with numerous composers—discussing contracts, fees, performance and recording rights, and other particulars—I successfully had commissioned five works from five American composers for American Sounds. They are:
• Sonata for Horn (2018) by James Naigus • Sonata for Horn (2018) by Gina Gillie • “Untitled” for Horn, Percussion and Piano (2018) by Adam Wolf • “Untitled” for Horn and Piano (2018) by Jenni Brandon • “Untitled” for Unaccompanied Horn (2018) by Wayne Lu
This collection of works, while being commissioned for the album, is my gift to the horn world. There are so many incredible, aspiring horn players and composers in this generation, and I can only wonder with great anticipation what the next generation will bring. We need more new compositions to compliment, not replace, the extant repertoire—works that introduce us to the brilliance of 21st-century music and expand the boundaries of the standard repertoire. It is my hope that this album will serve as an inspiration, and that others will follow suit, reaching out to the ends of the earth to discover incredible composers and their new music.
Over the coming year, I will premiere each of these works, in addition to recording them. I am happy to share that Gina Gillie’s Sonata for Horn will be the first (Northwest Horn Symposium, March 2018). Look for updates about other premieres and the album soon on Indiegogo, Siegfried’s Call Artists on Facebook and at www.stevencohenhorn.com. Updated for publication by Siegfried’s Call, February 2018.
1 - Defining success
In music school, you are taught all of the skills necessary to become a successful musician. You receive one-on-one instruction from professors, attend great guest lecturers and masterclasses, and much more. All of these eye-opening opportunities provide the tools required to succeed in the field, whether as a performer, a teacher, an administrator, or an entrepreneur. When I completed my music studies (B.M., M.M., 2 Performers Certificates), I felt more then ready to enter the field—to take auditions, to network, to freelance, to teach, and to be the go-getter that I needed to be. That first year after my master’s, I was officially adulting, a.k.a., financially solo. I picked up a part-time job waiting tables to make money. But, I became so obsessed with having money, and relieving financial stress, that I turned down last-minute gigs and ignored long-distance auditions, because I didn’t want to risk losing a somewhat flexible job by taking time off at the last minute. And, trust me such a job is rare for a musician to find. A year into that job, I began to feel angry because my soul was not satisfied. I was practicing less, and feeling really grouchy about it. On top of which, I was feeling like a loser because every way that I turned—all of my fellow classmates were winning jobs, and all that I had was a few gigs and students. I mainly was a waitress. Fast forward a few years. I am now making a big chunk of my income from teaching and performing—no longer waitressing! To me, that is a level of success, because I am not relying on being a waitress to pay my bills. I can officially call myself a freelance musician. But why is it that when I returned to one of my Alma Maters and discussed my recent achievements with a professor that said, “Just wait and your time will come?” In my head, I was thinking, my time will come? How is this not success? So is it only success when we can say that we are titled or named? Well, let me tell you, I jumped through hurdles to get to this personal level of success, and I feel so good about it! So please, if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, stick to what is an achievement for yourself. And, as with any goal, once you achieve it, never stop, and keep reaching. That is what I am doing. I achieved a level of success of not needing to waitress; now, my next goal is to win a job. After that, to become a full-time horn professor. If you are making money playing your instrument, you have succeeded.
2 - Practicing less is more
The first year out of school I faced two challenges. The first, finding the time to practice. The second, finding a place to do so. I lived in an apartment, practicing there until someone complained thus forcing me to stop. I really did not like playing with a silent mute, so I crashed the practice rooms at a local music school. But it was hit-or-miss—sometimes I would find a room and other times they would be full during the ninety minutes that I had to practice. I also got tired of lugging my equipment back-and-forth. I posted on a local moms’ Facebook group seeking to rent private studio space. I got lucky, because I found a woman that rented me this amazing space in the woods, and instead of paying her I performed social media work for her private furniture company. The challenge of finding a space was solved, but what about time? Mama mia, when is there time? As an undergrad, I heard every guest speaker say the same thing, “Practice now while you are in school because you will not have the time when you leave.” In my head I would say, “Yeah right. I will never have that issue because I am so diligent with my time management—squeezing in two to three hours of practicing.” Well dang. I hate to admit it, but they were right. Between gigs, teaching, a part-time job, and making sure that I sleep, the days slip by and the time that I once had for practicing no longer exists, unless I make it work. I try my best to wake-up early before work to get in a warm-up, and on days that are crazy, I try to find an hour to practice—making the most out of that precious time. This has led me to become more efficient and focused when I practice. I actually have improved more in the first year out of school than I did when I was in school. While I am driving to work, I play the excerpts that I am learning for an audition or listen to recordings of my practice sessions. While I am at work, I sing rhythms and excerpts of repertoire that I am learning so that when I enter the practice room my mental training is done and all that I need to do is apply it to the horn. No matter how tired I am, or how much is going on, I try to at least schedule an hour a day for playing my horn so that I feel accomplished and confident that I am not slacking.
3 - Having another job is okay
I’m now experienced having had many jobs: waitress, catering server, wine seller, arts administrator, babysitter, web sales, shipping and inventory, youth group leader and more. If it made money and fit into my schedule, I would do it. With that philosophy, a feeling of shame crept in as I was supporting myself with a job that was not music. Come to find out, after discussing this topic with colleagues, I was not alone and had nothing of which to be ashamed. I thought that this would make a great question for social media. I, polled all of my Facebook friends, and, to my surprise, people who hold famously delicious playing jobs, whom I never thought would respond, did! The jobs they mentioned were: office-services representative, arts administrator, Amazon warehouse associate, substitute teacher, bartender, server, tutor, dog walker, personal trainer, babysitter, real estate agent, barista, box-office attendant, and many others. As I said, when colleagues were responding—people who play Broadway shows, are full-time freelancers, or hold full-time playing jobs—I was surprised at their having day jobs. This is a reality that was not taught in school. There is no reason to feel ashamed that you are earning money from another source. I came to view my “other job” as another form of networking and thinking of it as an investment in meeting different people that I would otherwise have not, and to open my horizons to different performance opportunities. I would always carry business cards—you never know who you will meet. One night when I was waitressing, I met a couple, the gentleman of which was the director of the culinary institute. He got me a gig there playing background music at a French champagne event. I was paid, fed, and served expensive French champagne; life was good! Even now that I am primarily freelancing, whenever there is a lull, I call my previous employers to see if they need an extra hand so that I can make a few extra bucks during that slow time.
4 - Age is nothing but a number
My freelance career began at the age of twenty-four. I thought that I was old in the field, because everyone I went to school with was winning a job. As I started to speak with my colleagues, I discovered that I was practically the baby! While studying with Javier Gandara, we talked about this exact topic. He told me that the majority of people don’t win a big job until their late thirties or early forties. And, sure enough, everyone with whom I was gigging was thirty or older. He told me that it was not until his late twenties that he really understood how to play the horn, and I feel like I can relate to that. I feel like my mental maturity has allowed me to understand concepts of my playing that were lacking previously and to finally improve them! The most important thing to say about this topic is to not compare yourself with others. We are constantly hearing about these successful young players winning big jobs and it can make us feel like that is the big picture, but the reality is that it is not. It reminds me to keep my mind on my goal and to focus on my growth. Whether you make it at twenty or forty, there is no difference because you are making it!
5 -You are not alone
The more that I speak about this with colleagues, the more that I feel that these topics are important. It is important to know that you are not alone. Do not allow the level of success of others to effect your becoming the best that you can. Whether you continue in performance, or switch to another field, never think that you have failed. Just the other day I once again polled my Facebook friends: “Financially, do you support yourself freelancing? How long did it take you to get to that point?” The response? For the most part, it has taken people anywhere from one to six years to get started nationally and internationally. Each individual explained that there is never a moment that passes by of not feeling financially secure, but you need to just keep doing what you can, going day-by-day, and taking pride in the moments that are strong and finding the strength inside you to endure moments of weakness. As people always say: they wish that their high schools had prepped them for life skills such as filing taxes; I wish that conservatories had discussed the real balance between succeeding in the field and life. Always support your friends, your colleagues and, most importantly, yourself!
“Guys, I teeter back-and-forth between wanting to be amazing, realizing that it doesn’t really matter, and just trying not to embarrass myself.” I posted this to social media mid-frenzy while compiling my pre-tenure dossier for the university. Nothing will make you question your career, relevance, and use of time more than the college review process; I was surprised to see this sentiment resonated with so many people.
It got me thinking... what is amazing, anyway? What does that even mean? What are we trying to prove here? To spend the better part of every day turned to years turned to decades pursuing an abstract art, a sensation, a connection…some kind of validation, either internal or external. How is it that some people feel like the bee’s knees for remembering to take out the trash while others beat themselves up for executing a slightly imperfect note while performing in Carnegie Hall? My dad used to say, “You’re so worried about how you’re going to dance that you don’t appreciate just being asked to the dance. Not everybody gets to go to the dance.” It’s true. How often do useless fears of inadequacy rob us of our musical joy? That’s why most of us connected with music in the first place—beauty, sentiment, and pleasure. How does our perception of other people’s perceptions play into your feelings of accomplishment? Ideally, it shouldn’t. Right?
"Unlocking talent is about creating a space in which to grow."
It is said that art is a reflection of self—who we are as individuals, as a society, as teachers, and as students. The pursuit of artistry and the challenges of creating/expressing with clarity often run parallel to the challenges that we face as individuals, at which point personal and artistic progress become synonymous. Ideally, the pursuit of artistry holds the individual connected to both self and to the collective in a type of symbiotic relationship. Sometimes it holds us only to self, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Maybe that’s when we create something that we think is awesome, but to which no one else seems to connect. At the other extreme, it can hold us only to the collective—everyone loves what you’re bringing, but maybe you’re feeling unsatisfied. Most of us have experienced both extremes, and everything in between.
What does it mean to be “amazing?” Is it based on perception, feeling, or opinion? Maybe what we’re seeking is the feeling of being amazing or a sense of purpose in our art. Artistic purpose – that’s a subject that I’ve contemplated through a multitude of platforms. Trying to understand if it is useful to make art for art’s sake (I think it is) and if the meaning of expression lies within the artist or with the audience. What makes us feel like we have purpose? The answer is likely varied for each of us. For myself, it comes down to connecting, inspiring, and making a difference. How do we find a means of making a difference through art? What if no one cares? Does that hinder our efforts by making less of an impact? Maybe less satisfied?
"Product matters. If the process is there, then the product will follow."
The importance of expressing character strengths cannot be over estimated in relation to personal satisfaction. We each have unique strengths, but there are times when we’re not able to express our character strengths, and we become discouraged. Life happens and things are not always ideal. This concept runs much bigger than music. It’s important to get to know yourself and exercise your gifts as a creative mind, a logistics person, a big picture thinker, detail oriented... whatever makes you tick. Without active use of our individual gifts, it’s easy to feel lost or meaningless. Does that mean we’re actually meaningless? No, but it does keep us from feeling our best.
Personal perspective has everything to do with artistic output. Unlocking talent is about creating a space in which to grow. This space is different from person to person. This doesn’t mean shutting out all critique, but it does mean at least allowing the experience before the critique. It’s more beneficial to focus on what you enjoy—developing and feeding your passions in ways that create confidence. Product matters. If the process is there, then the product will follow. Someone once told me, “A great performance won’t make a career, but a bad one won’t end it, either.” I’m not sure about the former—a great performance has started many a career—but I would agree about the latter. Allowing space to experiment, and patient optimism when it doesn’t go as planned, is a crucial part of discovering your personal best.
You’re going to get knocked down. It will feel bad. You will have awesome highlights. There will be not-so-awesome low lights. Productive cycles of creative output have left me forward thinking and completely inspired. Aimless low times have left me feeling desperate, dreaming about the past. But here’s the catch: there have been times when I perceived myself as a complete failure, void of artistic purpose, and even in those moments there was the opportunity to inspire or lift someone else up. Opportunities to exercise purpose are hidden in every day life. Maybe being “amazing” is an exercise or a habit, or maybe it’s a non-existent state of being, but as artists we are privileged to act as mirrors to society of self, emotion, and thought. So maybe being “amazing” is the amalgamation of personal perspective expressing characteristic strengths in a symbiotic relationship of individual and collective… and that’s pretty amazing.
Join host Adam Wolf and guests in conversations about music, lifestyle, and all things horn.
Michelle Baker and Barbara Jostlein Currie
On this episode of Pathways, host Adam Wolf talks to recently retired 2nd horn of The Met Orchestra Michelle Baker, and current 4th horn of The Met, and acting 2nd horn of San Diego Symphony Barbara Jostlein Currie. They talk about The Met, symphonic vs opera playing, their upbringing, family life, masterclasses and auditions, and tons of laughter.
In the inaugural episode of Pathways, host Adam Wolf talks with horn player of the famed Canadian Brass Bernhard Scully. They talk about routine, Canadian Brass, Kendall Betts, Gunther Schuller, and more!
Host Adam Wolf speaks with principal horn of the St. Louis Symphony, Roger Kaza. They discuss the bridge between St. Louis and Los Angeles, Houston, conductors, auditions, being a soloist, Audition Improbable, and so much more!
Chris Castellanos, Boston Brass, talks about jazz, the Las Vegas scene, and being active in the construction of your own career. Special guest appearance by Sam Pilafian, tuba, who shares wisdom over the course of his famed career.
A Staggering career in his mid 20's, we discuss Brett Hodge's current positions as principal horn of the Omaha Symphony and third horn of the Grand Park Orchestra. Looking ahead and meet Sadie the dog.
Host Adam Wolf is joined by legendary studio hornist James Thatcher. Thatcher has recorded on over 3,000 movies, as well as hundreds of T.V. shows, albums, commercials, and various other recording work.
On this episode of Pathways, host Adam Wolf talks to recently retired 2nd horn of The Met Orchestra Michelle Baker, and current 4th horn of The Met, and acting 2nd horn of San Diego Symphony Barbara Jostlein Currie. They talk about The Met, symphonic vs opera playing, their upbringing, family life, masterclasses and auditions, and tons of laughter.
As a horn performance major currently in college, it’s been a great opportunity to work at Siegfried's Call for the summer. Like a kid in a candy store, I had the opportunity to test a number of quality mutes. Finding the right mute is very important. Recently I tested eight straight mutes. As a college student on a budget, both quality and price were considered as I examined this sampling of great mutes.
After testing this selection of mutes I found recommending one over the rest wasn't adequate. Instead, I’ve highlighted three top contenders, across various price points, and subsequently detailed the other mutes. Each mute was rated by tone color, evenness throughout the range, and by price point. Please note that all of the mutes considered here are tunable.
The top three mutes, in order from one to three, are the original "Rittich" mute by Dr. Caswell, the Sylva Horn Crafts mute made from beechwood, and the RGC TPA 01 tunable straight mute in cherry wood. These three mutes scored my personal top rating for tone color throughout the range of the horn, consistency of resistance, and evenness throughout the range. I found the original Rittich mute's high consistency of evenness and free blowing resistance to be exceptional. This mute has a special black matte finish and an adjustable leather cord that makes it very easy to grip. Priced around $325.00 it is a great investment that lives up to its name. Understandably, such high quality comes at a price.
The second of the three was the Sylva mute by Horn Crafts. Clearly crafted with quality in mind and made of beechwood, the Sylva mute is priced at approximately $248.00. This mute has medium resistance plus a sturdy rope cord. Between the three Horn Craft mutes that I tested, I found the Sylva to be my personal favorite due to its medium resistance, the quality of tonal color and the consistency of the evenness throughout the range. Both of the above mutes are great products. If you are on a budget though, the RGC TPA 01 tunable straight mute (in cherry wood) is a well-rounded and affordable option. The warm, easy to produce tone matches well with the light resistance and free play across the range of the horn. For a price of around $130.00 you can get a quality mute that works very well.
While testing these mutes, I found that it was very difficult to find a top three because of the numerous similar characteristics between all of them. The five other mutes tested were the Don Maslet straight mute, the Woodstop straight mute in walnut, the Betula Horn Crafts mute in beechwood, the Khaya Horn Crafts mute in mahogany and the RGC TPA 03 straight mute in cherry wood. All hand crafted and tunable, these mutes are comparable and each have their own positive characteristics.
The Don Maslet straight mute has a good sound with a black finish, and for the low price of $125.00, is great if you have a tight budget. When testing this mute, I found it to have a more condensed sound compared to others. In contrast the Khaya Horn Crafts mute has a more open sound.
When I tested the Woodstop straight mute in walnut, I found that it had an exceptional tone color and consistently even play across the register. There is also a sturdy leather cord attached for quick access. This handcrafted quality mute has a fair price of approximately $287.00.
After testing the Betula Horn Crafts mute in beechwood, I found there to be a heavier resistance, which works well for certain playing circumstances and personal preference. If you are looking for a mute with heavier resistance, I recommend the Betula. With the Rittich style characteristics, I found it similar in tonal color and is priced around $248.00. I found the Khaya Horn Crafts mute in mahogany to be free playing more open sounding with a nice rich color than some others. This mute also has light resistance and goes for approximately $248.00. Similar to the other horn craft mutes it has a sturdy rope cord attached.
Finally, the RGC TPA 03 straight mute in cherry wood was similar in tonal color to the RGC TPA 01 mute mentioned earlier. It has a heavier resistance throughout the range and is a little less expensive than others with the same characteristics. A unique feature of this mute is its 12-sided panel construction. This mute is priced around $160.00.
Written by Marina Krol, Bachelor of Music in Horn Performance and Music History candidate (Hartt 2017)
by TSgt Gerald L. Welker Principal Horn, United States Air Force Band, Europe Ramstein AB, Germany
Ever wonder what it is like being a horn player in the military? Gerald L. Welker has offered us a look from the inside. He is principal horn of the US Air Force Band stationed in Rammstein, Germany. I hope you enjoy reading about this sector of horn playing as much as I did! (bvp)
Getting started and which path to choose...
There are a number of jobs that musicians can choose to do. Many of us began playing the horn at a young age, and we all had our ideas of what the future would look like. Would we be a virtuosic soloist? Sit on the stage with a major symphony orchestra? Or, even teach as a professor…passing on our knowledge and love of music to the next generation? These were all possibilities, and they would equal “success” as a professional musician.
I come from a musical family. My father, the late Dr. Gerald Loren Welker, was a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and had a distinguished career as a wind conductor and music educator. My mother, Dr. Leslie Glenn Welker, is a former band director/music educator at the high school and middle school level. Both were my teachers through high school and college, consequently, they fostered my love for music throughout that time.
“that is just what the musicians who can’t win the orchestra jobs do”
Coming up through school, I played with many orchestras, was a guest soloist for numerous ensembles, and had some of the coolest experiences of my whole career. But, money was tight, and I had a family to support…a wife and three daughters. There were options on the table. Like every other musician, I kept my eyes open for any/all possible leads for a full-time job. Then, I saw an opening for a horn vacancy with the U.S. Air Force. I had never given much thought into going into the military band career field, as my ignorance told me “that is just what the musicians who can’t win the orchestra jobs do”. I was going to get the gig…have some stability…do my 4 years…and get out. Until, I played my first performance with the band.
"Wow! I was making a difference. I was home."
We were playing a show in a smaller community on one of our tours. At the opening of every concert, we have the audience stand for the playing of the National Anthem. As we began to play, I looked out into the crowd of about 700 people…most of that small community. In the front row, I saw a veteran, well into his 80’s, tears rolling down his face from the playing of the anthem. Wow! I was making a difference. My job, my uniform, my life is making a difference. That was all I needed. I was home. Anyway, I am now in my 9th year of service and it has been an amazing career thus far. I share the honor of serving along with my sister…MU1 Adrienne Welker Moore, who is with the United States Navy Band in Washington D.C. Being a military musician is a wonderful experience, and I am blessed to do the work that I do.
The Pros and Cons
The Pros -
Performing alongside many wonderful musicians and expanding your horizons…musically. This job allows for the flexibility to experiment with exploring your talents, not only as a horn player, but any other interests you may have. I have done a lot of performing as a vocalist and pianist, and have also had the opportunity to work as an arranger. All in all, it helps you become a more well-rounded, overall solid, musician.
Lots of time for outside gigs. You can still accept civilian orchestra gigs, as long as they do not interfere with your military obligations. So, you have most evenings and weekends free (when you are not touring). That creates a perfect opportunity to still play much of the literature that you love, and continue garnering a steady paycheck.
"They buy you a horn!"
They buy you a horn! When you are hired as a military horn player, the government will purchase you all of the equipment you will need to do your job successfully…a horn, mutes, cases, lubricants, mouthpieces, etc.
Paid vacation. You will receive 30 days paid leave every year of military service.
Opportunity to perform chamber music on a regular basis. In most every assignment, you will be assigned to a brass quintet, woodwind quintet or brass choir. Either way, you have to keep your chops in top working order, as you are considered a solo voice in these situations.
Performing so many different styles of music. I‘ve had the opportunity to perform Classical, Jazz, Rock, Cuban-Klezmar, Latin….You name it, you’ll do it.
Play for many high-profile events/individuals…presidential visits, foreign dignitaries, celebrities, etc.
Get to travel the world and play in some of the most beautiful locations.
The Cons -
"It is really not that bad"
8 week basic military training. I didn’t mind this so much, but for some….it could be a con. It is really not that bad. Plus, after that eight week period, you have a full-time job. Depending on the branch of service, the BMT requirements are different.
Time away from loved ones. Bands do travel a lot. So, if you do have a family, it is at least something to weigh.
Well, if everyone has the same experience as Gerald, I think the pros totally outweigh the cons! Especially if you can make it through the first 8 weeks - HA!
If there are horn players from any of the other branches of the military that have anything to add, please contact us at Siegfried's Call. These insights are not only interesting to us in the civilian world, but, could help some young horn players or those considering a career change make a decision that could change the path of their lives. Thank you to Gerald for giving us such an honest look at life on the inside! (bvp)
Compiled by Barbara Van Pelt, MM Music (horn) Hartt ('87)
When an instrument is dropped off for a service, or when folks have traveled a distance to visit us regardless of any instrument repair needs, often we're asked about where to go to grab a bite to eat, or if there are any interesting things going on around town they could explore while they do have some time in the area to spend.
This is the first post in what will be a recurring series. Over this and the course of the next several installments, I'll be acquainting you with the Hudson Valley region, connecting you with some favorite spots to eat in Beacon and interesting places to visit nearby, and also highlighting a few upcoming festivals and events, in case when planning your visit to our shop you want to also add that extra layer of an experience. I figure, you'll already have made the drive, right? Why not have a great bite to eat to look forward to? or a unique side stop spot to stretch your legs during the drive home (or while your horn's bell is being cut?) So, let's get started.
We're located in Beacon, New York, which is part of the Hudson River Valley. The Hudson River itself is 315 miles long and runs from the Adirondacks all the way down to the Atlantic Ocean. Near us in Beacon, the water is brackish and the river is almost 2 miles wide. The Hudson Valley is considered to extend from near Albany down to about the middle of Westchester County, situating our City of Beacon just about smack in the middle. Once you're in town, we're very close to the I-84 highway and only a few blocks off Main street. Our shop is one of several diverse tenants in the now privately-owned old Beacon High School building. We occupy about 1700 square feet on the main floor, in fact we're in what used to be the school's old Art room! The teacher's office was converted into our Ivasi and trial room; the film developing dark room converted to our staff kitchen; the kiln area turned into what will be our buffing room, and the rest of the space is dedicated to retail display, repair benches and tools, HornGuard manufacture, ultrasonic cleaning, plating equipment, and our pack and ship station.
Beacon's Main street stretches one mile long from the River on the West end, to Fishkill Creek on the East end. The shop is closer to the East end of town, so let me start there with some favorite spots we bring our friends for lunch or dinner. All are walking distance. In my next post I'll highlight some spots about a 10 to 15 minute's drive away. I want to mention that we have no affiliation with any of these establishments, we are all merely happy, regular patrons.
The Hop - closed on Tuesdays, but offering 16 beers on draft and hundreds of bottles for sale in their side shop, plus an artisan menu with items like BBQ Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese, or a maple bacon-garnished duck fat-sauteed Brussels sprouts appetizer.
Dogwood - local, seasonal draft brews and organic, locally-sourced ingredients for their pub menu, they also host live music almost every night (closed on Mondays.) Dinners (or very late Lunch) only.
Barb's Butchery - our local butcher offers a weekly lunch specials menu! Only one item per day and each day and week changes, but the constant is that they're all very, very good. Check her out!
Ella's Bellas - offering the most incredible gluten-free food and baked goods, surpassed only - possibly - by the insanely great on-site roasted and freshly ground coffee from Tas Cafe. All delicious. A solid choice for those with dietary restrictions.
Towne Crier Cafe - part restaurant and bar, part concert venue. The pastry chef's resume includes Le Cirque and her creations alone are enough to make you want to pull up a chair, but then there's the rest of the menu.
Max's on Main - a great sports bar, through and through. Cool ambiance and nice staff. My favorite things to order are the Beacon Rolls or the BBQ Chicken Caesar Wrap (Scott prefers Steak Night on Thursdays!)
Homespun Foods - this establishment thrives on featuring market-fresh ingredients, with a little specialty mixed in. Typical fares include panini, quiche, and seasonal soups, among other great choices.
There is no shortage of things to see or do in a naturally, culturally, and historically rich area such as the Hudson Valley... I think it's worth mentioning these spots as places to either kill some time at while you're waiting for a same-day repair to be done, or to hit up either on your way into or out of town. For now I'll highlight things quite near-by and save things a little more of a drive away for the next post.
Howland Cultural Center - on the National Register of Historic Places, the small architecturally-significant building itself is beautiful to tour, but align your visit with one of the many cultural events hosted there and you won't be disappointed.
Dia: Beacon - a spaciously impressive modern art museum housed in an ex-Nabisco box printing factory right on the Hudson river. This venue has many long-term installations and a few that rotate. The Bruce Nauman audio/visual display ("Mapping the Studio I") in the basement is especially stirring.
Mount Beacon - are you a hiker? Take a walk up our natural landmark, a high peak of the Hudson Highlands. On a clear day you can see the Manhattan skyline, a full 50 miles to the south. This peak was used for signal fire communications during the Revolutionary war.
Bannerman Castle on Pollepel Island - the remnants of a Scotsman's fortress in the middle of the River is something you can tour, along with the rest of the island, thanks to the Bannerman Castle Trust laboring under the National Maritime Historical Society. The castle was destroyed by fire in 1969. (Passenger boat reservations recommended in advance.)
Sloop-Clearwater - one of our most famous Beaconites, Pete Seeger, saw his vision come to life in the launching of the Sloop, the boat he helped raised funds to build to draw attention to the pollution in the River back in the late 1960's. The Sloop offers on-board educational programs as well as public sails.
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B.S. in Finance, Mount Saint Mary College '01
Financial Analyst IBM
Co-Owner of Siegfried's Call, Inc.
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