Student Testimonials

Over 20 years of praise from academic colleges and students.

Oto Carillo

DePaul ’93 (Chicago Symphony Orchestra, DePaul Professor of Horn)

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 was 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.

Devin Gossett

Northwestern MM’18 (Richmond Symphony – 2nd Horn)

Since I first started my degree at Northwestern, it was clear that Jon was prepared to invest in my career both musically and personally. Jon sets a wonderful example of how to be a good musician and colleague. He not only helped me work through my many technical issues on the horn, but he was and still is willing to offer advice with regard to making decisions about my career. Our lessons were never just about horn playing, he has taught me how to navigate life and strive for balance while working as a musician. Having someone like Jon in your corner who understands the field so well is invaluable and I am so grateful for the time I spent with him at Northwestern. Not to mention his sense of humor makes for the best learning environment! Thanks for everything, JB!

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.

Jack Bryant

Northwestern BM’18 (Curtis Institute of Music – Post Baccalaureate Program)

In my experiences with many renowned horn teachers, those aspects of horn-playing and psychology Jon emphasizes in his teaching are the most critical to success as a musician. His keen ear and attention to detail, humorous and thought-provoking analogies, vast personal experience as a working musician, and the magnificent example of his own playing always inspired and enabled me to hold myself to a higher standard and strive for greatness.

On many occasions, I entered lessons feeling like my playing was “out-of-whack” for some reason that I couldn’t clearly articulate (no pun intended). Jon was always able to immediately isolate and explain the root cause of my problems, and in this way, taught me the essential skill of how to be my own teacher. Jon is always a positive presence in my life – a fantastic role model personally and musically – and I never pick up the horn (or eat cupcakes) without thinking of the things I learned from him.

Elyse Lauzon

Northwestern MM’17 (San Diego Symphony – 2nd Horn)

Jon has had a significant influence on my musical journey from a student to a professional orchestral musician. When I came to Northwestern as a graduate student, I was in need of some “fine tuning” and refinement in my playing. Jon’s emphasis on tuning is one of the biggest elements that brought my playing to the next level and immediately I started advancing more in auditions. His attention to detail and musical expertise is extremely valuable to anyone wishing to pursue a position in a professional orchestra.

Jon’s teaching was critical in my development as a musician. I was lucky to have Jon as a chamber music coach for almost my entire time at Northwestern. He is extremely dedicated to his students, hosting weekly excerpt class, Wagner tuba class and mock auditions. These classes were invaluable to me as a young musician and certainly the most helpful classes I had taken at Northwestern.

Aside from feeling thoroughly prepared for auditions, I was confident knowing that other audition candidates mostly likely did not have a teacher as dedicated in their preparation as Jon. Even after winning a job, I still continue to play for Jon and he is always welcoming.

With his kind-hearted personality and humble demeanor, you never would know how superb of a musician he is. After attending Lyric Opera and Grant Park performances I was always stunned at his impeccable command over the instrument and how he makes it look so easy. Jon has undoubtedly put a lot of thought into horn playing and is able to convey his insights in a way that students can relate.

I would most likely not be where I am today had I not studied with Jon and, for that reason, I am truly grateful. I hope to return the favor to my future students who wish to pursue this competitive career.

Russell Rybicki

Northwestern MM’16 

I was lucky enough to study and work with Jon during my formative years as a musician. I could not have predicted how meaningful his unparalleled combination of crystal clear instruction, world class musicianship, his genuine kindness, and his endless knowledge of how to make the horn sing would be to me. I could not be more grateful for his commitment to having me as a student – once I graduated, I have always been welcomed back if I need him to hear me. All of his ideas are catered to suit each student, and each lesson felt like a miniature adventure of how to make my musicianship as simple and efficient as possible. His ability to not only demonstrate his efficient, effortless, vocal-like, resonant, colorful, easy sound in any context, but also to concisely articulate in words how he has developed that approach, is something I’m confident is rare to find anywhere in the world. He radiates such a positive energy, and I feel I’ve shared just as many laughs and smiles with him as insightful anecdotes- especially his peanut butter and strawberry sandwiches, a revelation! His ease of playing the horn complements his approachable and welcoming demeanor in life. I will never forget how simple he made everything sound, and as long as I follow that efficient process he helped to guide me toward, and believe and trust in that process, I know I will get where I need to go. Jonathan Boen is one of the best pedagogues and musicians on the horn in the world, and I am so grateful to have been under his guidance.

Ryan Little

Northwestern BM’15 (Naples Philharmonic – Principal Horn) 

I was very fortunate to start my studies at Northwestern at the exact same time that Jon began teaching there! One of the many aspects that I appreciated so much was how well Jon’s teaching methods worked alongside what I was learning from Gail Williams. Gail and Jon have so much mutual respect for each other, (both as performers and as teachers) and it really makes for an incredible combination. We would usually have around one lesson a month with Jon, and it was always so helpful to add his perspective to what I was learning and practicing on the horn. Outside of our lessons, I had so much extra time with Jon because of his weekly excerpt class and also having him coach our horn quartet as part of the chamber music curriculum. Also, during my senior year I was able to take his Wagner Tuba class during the spring quarter, which was literally one of the most practical courses I’ve ever taken. When the Houston Grand Opera asked if I could lead the Wagner Tuba section for their production of Götterdämmerung while I was in grad school at Rice, I felt so comfortable accepting their offer because of my experience in Jon’s class.

No matter what his schedule was like at the opera, he always dedicated himself 100% to helping us find ways to perform at our best, and I’ll never forget the many practical things that I learned from him in my four years at NU. Jon was always so willing to help us see performances at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and getting to hear him play some incredible Dvořák, Strauss, and Wagner works was truly life-changing. I also had the pleasure of being invited to join his horn section at the Grant Park Music Festival recently, and watching and hearing him lead the horn section firsthand was one of the best experiences of my career and really brought my Jon Boen education full circle. It really is no surprise that Jon’s students have had so much success, and I owe much of my career to what I learned from him.

Anna Suechting

DePaul ’11

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. Both in lessons and out, Jon is one of the most dedicated and encouraging teachers I have known.

Julia Filson

DePaul ’11

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 several 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.

Brian A. Goodwin

DePaul ’10

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.

Philip Kassel

DePaul ’10 

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 has 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 featured soloist with my orchestra and had the chops to do it!

Emily Wozniak

DePaul ’09

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.

Tasha Lawson O’Neil

DePaul ’07

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.

Chris Schetter

DePaul ’06

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.

Alana Vegter

DePaul ’04 (Ghenghis Barbie)

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.

Melissa Evans Plotkin

DePaul ’04

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.

Margaret Tung

DePaul ’04 (University of Kentucky – Visiting Assistant Professor of Horn)

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.

Mackenzie Merrill-Wick

DePaul ’03

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.

Keri Godon

DePaul ’01

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.



Dan Vidican

DePaul ’01 (Lukas Horns)

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 8:30 am, 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?!!!”

Michelle Duchow

DePaul ’95

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. 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. 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.

Tim Lenihan

DePaul ’05 (Horn) and ’00 (Piano)

Jon 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 Opera, 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.

Pete Nowlen

DePaul ’86

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.