Over 20 years of praise from academic colleges and students.
I have had the fortune of being Jon’s student, colleague, teaching partner at DePaul, neighbor, and friend. As his student, I came to Jon with much bravado but little in the way of polish. After 3+ years of ‘hoo-tooing’, watermelon seed spitting, mouthpiece paper blowing, tree root digging (to pay off some summer lessons), and funny stories about an egg going below or above the tongue, I emerged from Jon’s studio much more mature as a player-one who valued sound over flash, elegance over muscle, and musical planning over thoughtlessness. I will always remember the easy and gentle manner he had with his words and the beautiful ringing sound that was always at the ready to show me what could be done. As a student, I was amazed at his playing-everything was played with a musical purpose and everything had that glorious, effortless sound. As his sometime colleague, I’m still impressed by this. Having played alongside Jon in Grant Park and on the Brandenburg Concerto, or having listened to him at Lyric playing any number of solos, I am still fascinated at his facility and understanding of everything he does. He truly is one of the finest artists that I have met. As his teaching partner at DePaul, I have been privy to countless nuggets of his instruction. I still remember the first horn class we shared and how nervous I was when it was my turn to say something to the students. I couldn’t believe that I was being called upon to impart some wisdom with the ‘master’ sitting not too far away. However, the wonderful thing about Jon is that he comes across as downright humble. He has always treated me with kindness, respect, and as an equal, (sometimes difficult for me to fathom) ready to help out whenever I needed it. Aside from his impeccable artistry, he embodies what is best in a musician; humility, and compassion for others. Together, we have heard many auditions and juries, shared countless car rides, commiserated over household remodeling projects, compared notes on students, and have had wonderful discussions about horn, beer and everything in between. He has been one of the most significant influences in my life; not only shaping me as a musician, but as a human being.
For me, the greatest thing about studying with Jon was getting to play together. It was so easy to get inside his sound-and to feel the direction he wanted to go. I swear he can lead telepathically. Then there was hearing him perform. His performances at Lyric at a time when they had a 4 horn section-no assistant-were unbelievable. Then I got to hear his Jan Bach recital at the 2009 IHS conference and heard technical virtuosity that I never knew he possessed. I always tell my west coast colleagues he’s the best kept secret of horn.
The most important things Jon Boen taught me were 1. how to peel an onion, and 2. how to clean my basement. I think that’s why I ended up being a pianist. Seriously, Jon has taught me music. He showed me, through his example, what it means to truly be an artist. I will never forget hearing his solo in Strauss’ Capriccio at Lyric, and literally being moved to tears because there was something in his sound, in his phrasing, and in his music making that pierced right through me. I have never been so moved by a horn sound and doubt I ever will be again. It was then that I realized what Jon was trying to get me to do in my own playing. When I came to DePaul, all I wanted was the biggest, brassiest sound, a sound that peeled paint off of the walls. Jon showed me how important it is to create a beautiful sound. Even though I didn’t pursue horn playing, I doubt I would have been much of a pianist without everything he taught me. Thank you for everything.
Where does one start when trying to sum up four years of lessons with Jon Boen? There were many words of wisdom and inspiration spoken that I still remember and use today. It has been 17 years since I had my last lesson but I still remind myself to spit water melon seeds when I’m not liking the sound of my attacks. Or when my chops just don’t want to work, I think and make sure I have the ‘recipe’ correct. There are many more I use almost daily and of course these ‘Jon’ techniques have been passed down to my students. They always laugh when I make up words to help them understand the phrase such as his words to the Franz Strauss Horn Concerto during the rapid sixteenth note passage in the Animato section: ‘No, I don’t want to eat my peas!’ ‘Yes, you must eat your peas!’, ‘I don’t want to eat my peas!’, ‘Yes, you must eat your peas!’. I remember leaving most lessons feeling very positive and inspired, ready to hit the practice room and work on all the new things I was just taught. I also remember other students saying the same thing. I was fortunate enough to hear the Lyric Opera do most of the Ring Cycle when I was at DePaul. I’ll never forget his golden sound seeming to just float out of the pit and fill the hall. So effortless. That was probably the best inspiration for learning. I wanted to (and still want to!) play like that and have that sound. There are a lot of good horn teachers and great players out there, but to find someone that can be both of these AND a normal human being on top of that is rare. The longer I play the horn, the more crazy people I meet! I remember having conversations about these crazy people in lessons, and how to handle situations with them. Very often great players are not great people. I personally think that all teachers should be good examples, since students look up to them and respect them. Luckily, I got a teacher worth respecting. Apart from his words of wisdom for horn, he also had good advice for life in general. I don’t even know if teachers remember all the things they say to their students, words that we remember so many years later. I had 4 wonderful years at DePaul and was lucky to have had Jon as a teacher. He was the absolute perfect teacher for me.
I remember having a lesson one morning, soon after I started taking lessons from him. I’ll always remember that the day was actually a Tuesday in 1999. I’m in the studio at 8:30a, and my dumb— brain thought it was a good idea to start the lesson with the Short Call. Jon walked in and about 5 minutes after we started the lesson and I butchered the excerpt, and I asked him if he could play it for me. He said, ‘Well, I don’t usually warm up first thing in the morning with the Short Call, but I’ll give it a shot…’, then reluctantly proceeds and plays…what do you know! He nails absolutely everything and leaves me speechless, thinking, ‘Wow, if he plays like this when he’s not warmed up, how the heck does he sound when he is actually warmed up?!!!
adjective (pleasanter, pleasantest)
giving a sense of happy satisfaction or enjoyment”
I have fond memories of his guidance as a teacher, coach, guru, and shrink. He has given so much to so many students, sharing his time and expertise through lessons, master classes, recitals, studio classes, sectionals, auditions, and the list goes on. It is remarkable that he has coached and encouraged so many aspiring hornists. A teacher of mine in graduate school once remarked, ‘it is obvious from your playing that you have had very fine teachers.’ I am forever grateful that I had the opportunity to study with Jon. Thank you for inspiring us through your patience, discipline, knowledge, musicianship, and especially your sound.
While I’ve always appreciated his ability to instruct students in horn pedagogy, I’m in awe of his unwavering ability to show different methods of how to achieve results. It’s wonderful to have a teacher who has taken the time and effort to develop an accessible method of instruction. The students who have gotten to work with Jon have had the opportunity of a lifetime.
I had the privilege of studying with Jon Boen for 3 years during my undergraduate studies at DePaul University. I remember that I looked forward to every lesson with him because I always learned something new and he was able to approach the lesson with such warmth and understanding. His ability to explain and simplify concepts helped me develop into the horn player I am today. He helped to solidify the foundation I have in my horn playing and musicianship. I admire him for his horn playing, his professionalism, and most importantly, as a person. I am grateful that I was able to work with Jon Boen.
I am so very grateful that Jon accepted me into DePaul back in 2002 where I had so many wonderful experiences. His playing came so easily to him, but unlike most players who are talented naturally, he was able to figure out the problems I was having, and find the ‘easiest way to play’. He is the king of efficient playing, and I still recall words of wisdom and methods of ‘making things easier’ even as I play today. I am positive that his teaching helped me to win the job I hold now as principal of the Air Force Band of the West, and inspired me to solo with the band. He certainly gave me a lot to think about in my horn playing and I am very fortunate to have been able to study with him.
I am so fortunate to have had Jon as my first true teacher while I embarked on a musical journey in which I had no idea would take me to where it has today. Being able to hear his simply beautiful and unique sound each and every week at our lessons amidst such an impressionable time in my life was an incredible gift that only later in my progress could I fully appreciate and comprehend. I continue to remind myself of that sound every time I pick up the horn. His catch-phrase ‘play by how it sounds and not by how it feels’ has helped me work through so many difficult experiences through the years. It will be engrained in my mind forever! Jon’s commitment to always producing and maintaining a healthy and developed sound has made such a strong and everlasting impression on me. I would like to thank Jon for his guidance not only as a teacher but more so as a genuinely exceptional human being. He acted as a mentor, listener, and even a counselor in times when I doubted myself. I will never forget the semester in which I forgot to register for lessons. I felt terrible and cried as I apologized, knowing that he wouldn’t be paid to teach me that semester. Jon wouldn’t even consider terminating our lessons and offered to let me work off my payment by babysitting his young daughter. I will never forget how accommodating and generous that was. His continued support and encouragement helped me to grow more confident and in the process encouraged me to develop my own personal style and musicality. He’s helped foster the thoughts and ideas of so many young musicians throughout the years, anyone would be lucky to have known him.
I remember his zen-like approach to the horn that really resonated with me, his seemingly unflappable demeanor on stage, his encyclopedic knowledge of horn technique and musical style, and lethal precision in applying it to his performance and instruction.
Whenever I think of Jon Boen, I describe him as one of the kindest people I’ve worked with. He was so patient and thoughtful in his teaching and in dealing with people. That’s the one thing that stuck with me. Also, whenever he made a joke, it was pretty much the best thing ever.”
During school, Jon coached a horn quartet where all we studied was Opera music, we even got to play some Wagner tuba music! This was a rare opportunity and not many teachers would have the familiarity with operas, or the Wagner tubas. I learned so much and had a really fun time! One summer, I took lessons from Jon at his house. I paid him by helping paint his garage. It was awesome to get to take a great lesson and then get to hang out with him outside and nerd out listening to horn music while doing some home improvement. Those were some of my favorite days. My time with Jon has always been a one-of-a-kind experience. He is a great teacher, but he is also a good man.
I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts, knowledge, and friendship with me the last couple of years. Your wise opinion helped my playing and teaching career very much. The more I play and practice the closer I get to understanding and appreciating your teaching and playing.
I can’t remember now the things I’m sure Jon taught me about articulation and embouchure and whatever other crazy techniques you need to get a note out of a French Horn. But believe it or not, a Chemistry lab isn’t so different from a Wagner Tuba quartet. Patience, creative problem solving, working effectively with a group. Those are the things that Jon taught me.
Jon was particularly helpful to me during a difficult period in my horn playing. I always appreciated his encouragement and willingness to try different approaches to solving the challenges I faced. A quote of his that I’ve always remembered is a reference to Charles Darwin, ‘Adapt or become extinct.’ It maybe sounds somewhat blunt or harsh (not meant to), but he always pointed out the importance of being able to respond effectively to change. I thought it was an interesting point and relevant not only to my own horn playing but also the future of music. I also have to mention the enthusiasm Jon brought to coaching our Wagner tuba quartet! I loved playing in that group and his mentoring miraculously turned Wagner tuba playing into something I now jump at the chance to do. Overall, I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to study with Jon at DePaul and to hear him play in Lyric Opera. I remember going to see Lulu and being blown away by Jon’s flawless playing on such a difficult part. I feel fortunate to have lived in such a musically inspiring city for two years.
Going to a lesson with Jon Boen was like going to horn therapy. He was never judging, was always kind, and I left every single lesson really excited to go practice what we’d talked about. As I write this down, it sounds like some sort of pharmaceutical advertisement, but I had serious endurance issues that I was convinced would never allow me to have a professional career as a horn player. It didn’t take long for Jon to recognize the physical aspects of my playing that were causing the issue. Through ingenious analogies (I’m sure he had thousands to use depending on the student) he helped me to strengthen my embouchure, but not by introducing me to strength/conditioning exercises. It was a simple matter of making my playing more efficient. The biggest impact that this had, besides the obvious physical advantages, was a new confidence in myself and my playing. I’m incredibly proud to say that, before I graduated from DePaul, I won a national orchestra audition for one of the few jobs that was open that year. Since then, I’ve been a feature soloist with my orchestra and had the chops to do it! I am positive that this job won’t be my last and, using the lessons I learned from Jon, I will win another one soon.
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate not only the time Jon spent in lessons, but all the extra time he invested whether to offer encouragement and advice or just to say hi and ask how things were going. I credit much of my success so far to what I learned from Jon and will always be proud to tell people that he was my teacher. Thanks for everything.
Jon Boen is not only one of those special horn players that you are lucky to hear, but also one of those special human beings that you are lucky to know. It has been two years since I graduated from DePaul, and I still feel like he is teaching me every day. There is always a post-it note on my stand reminding me that ‘the musician leads the technician!’ It was this sort of thinking that brought me back to why I play the french horn: not to perfect playing a piece of metal, but to be an artist. Thank you, Jon, for instilling music in my life and the lives of so many people.
Jon is a great horn teacher for all the energy he had for teaching while I studied with him, for the inspiration the memories of his teaching now give me when I am teaching, and for his continued help with getting me into teaching. I was always so encouraged to hear, when I arrived at a lesson, ‘I’ve been thinking about your problem and…’ This dedication to teaching and thinking about students’ problems both in and out of lessons is something I now strive to achieve in my own teaching. The same goes for his endless energy in lessons. Not a lesson went by where Jon didn’t get so excited about a passage that he rose out of his chair, waving his arms and trying to inspire an even more exciting sound from my horn. Jon has also encouraged me to write to (and has written to on my behalf) band directors in several area suburbs to try to develop a larger teaching studio. Both in lessons and out, Jon is one of the most dedicated and encouraging teachers I have known.
Over the past two years, Jon took the steps to connect my physical and mental health to both my horn playing and my teaching. He inspired me to take control of my health so that every other aspect of life-not just the horn-could fall into place. His interest in my teaching and wellness has helped shape foundations for my own teaching, especially as I start my new teaching position in the fall.