Kelsey Williams

Northwestern MM’18

I grew up in a small town in Upstate New York. I was a happy big fish in a little pond as far as horn is concerned. After finishing my Bachelor’s degree in music education in another small town in upstate New York, I made the move to Chicago to complete my Masters degree in horn performance at Northwestern University. I knew I wasn’t stupid, but I sure felt far behind after realizing Chicago was a much different, and bigger pond. I quickly realized my lessons with Professor Boen would be some of the most crucial learning experiences of my career. He has a way of taking you where you are, and helping you grow into a mature musician who has the tools to teach themselves after leaving the safety net of school. Those two years were packed with so much information that I will be processing the rest of my life.

Lessons were always about the music, not just the horn. He flipped the typical approach upside down. You have to know the phrase and what you want to say with the music first. If you add this after the woodshedding on technique, you’re actually changing the way you play, use your air, etc. and thus, have to relearn the piece after wasted time. Jon has such patience and understanding of the physical and mental process behind being a horn player. I still have a recording of one of our lessons on my phone. Professor Boen dives into the ideas of progress and focus. I’m sure neither of us knew at the time, that recording would be something I listen to time and time again.

As a freelance musician in Chicago, I am constantly putting Jon’s golden nuggets of wisdom into practice, whether I’m subbing with the CSO, playing in Civic Orchestra, or assisting him at Lyric Opera. The latter is a truly priceless experience I will cherish forever.