The Black Horn: The Story of Classical French Hornist Robert Lee Watt (African American Cultural Theory and Heritage)
Robert Lee Watt
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
The Black Horn: The Story of Classical French Hornist Robert Lee Watt tells the story of the first African American French Hornist hired by a major symphony in the United States. Today, few African Americans hold chairs in major American symphony orchestras, and Watt is the first in many years to write about this uniquely exhilarating—and at times painful—experience.
The Black Horn chronicles the upbringing of a young boy fascinated by the sound of the French horn. Watt walks readers through the many obstacles of the racial climate in the United States, both on and off stage, and his efforts to learn and eventually master an instrument little considered in the African American community. Even the author’s own father, who played trumpet, sought to dissuade the young classical musician in the making. He faced opposition from within the community—where the instrument was deemed by Watt’s father a “middle instrument suited only for thin-lipped white boys”—and from without. Watt also documented his struggles as a student at a nearly all-white major music conservatory, as well as his first job in a major symphony orchestra after the conservatory canceled his scholarship.
Watt subsequently chronicles his triumphs and travails as a musician when confronting the realities of race in America and the world of classical music. This book will surely interest any classical musician and student, particularly those of color, seeking to grasp the sometimes troubled history of being the only “black horn.”
charmed by our similar names. He said something like, “I bet you received a lot of my checks too.” We shook hands and talked a little before he had to leave. Tanglewood was certainly the place to be. One could never say that there wasn’t enough playing to go around at Tanglewood. My most memorable experience was performing the Brahms Horn Trio for Violin, Horn, and Piano. We were coached by the principal horn of the Boston Symphony, James Stagliano. He coached us for two rehearsals and then we
page numbers in the large black excerpt book. You turn to the excerpt and play it. When you finish playing the list, you’re done, they thank you, and they go on to the next person. “In these auditions, Bob, you gotta make a big impression right away, see? If you start screwing up, they’ll stop you and say thank you. Then you’ve had it. You don’t want this to happen. So for the next several months, we will review all the major excerpts for the horn. From now on, your lessons will start with a
head in that direction. I was in high school then and the first horn I owned was a Conn 8-D. Ashby: No, I don’t believe it—of course, I knew that. Watt: Yes, it’s true, but I sold it in my second year at conservatory. So I guess that was my departure from that whole concept. Some people might call it growth and some might say it was just a change in taste—a change from bad taste to good taste. Ashby: That’s it, Robert Lee, that remark calls for a penalty punch to the stomach. Stand up! We
“Please wait here, monsieur, Madame will join you shortly.” Madame? What had I gotten myself into? Soon “Madame” appeared looking very dapper in pleated golf pants, fancy golf cleats, and an elegant scarf. As the driver loaded the golf clubs and a pair of golf cleats for me, Madame greeted me in a robust voice. “Hello, young man, glad you could come. We are going to have a wonderful time, I promise you.” When she said that—the way she said it—told me that something special was in the air,
said she was friends with his wife and consequently had known Miles for many years. I asked her why she thought I should meet him. Granted, I had always been very impressed with him, but I was also content to know him from afar, based on the negative public relations hype that had always been associated with him. He was said to be volatile, moody, and just mean. However, Barbara said that, unlike most people, I would more than likely get along with him, because she felt that we had some similar