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Horn player shares thoughts on career, MSO

February 14, 2008|By KATE COLEMAN

Horn player Paul Hopkins doesn't believe in talent.

"I don't believe there's a little fairy that runs around and hits people on the head and suddenly you're a gifted musician. It takes work - a long-term commitment and daily practice," he said in a recent phone interview from his New Market, Md., home.

Born in San Diego, Hopkins, 39, said he was a Navy brat whose family moved a lot, but he did most of his growing up near Washington, D.C.

In addition to playing the horn, Hopkins is involved in the MSO's educational outreach. He writes scripts for programs that include Kinder Konzerts and Symphony Saturdays, making sure they are age-appropriate and meet educational goals.

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Hopkins also is musician representative to the MSO's board of directors and cites a lot of mutual respect. "I think the relationship between the musicians and the orchestra management and the board is one of the best things about Maryland Symphony," he said.

Hopkins answered several questions about his career and the MSO:

How long have you been playing the horn? When did you start? Why?

I started on trumpet when I was in fourth grade and switched to horn when I got to junior high school because my band director said that she needed a horn player in the advanced band.

When I was in third grade we had an assembly - a music group came into our school, and I was just immediately taken by it.

How long have you played with the MSO?

I started subbing in the orchestra in 1998. I was offered a contract in 2002.

Do you play with other musical ensembles?

I'm a member of the Maryland Philharmonic and perform with Baltimore Opera Company, National Philharmonic and Delaware Symphony Orchestra. I'm a session musician at Omega Recording Studios in Rockville, Md. It's a "mixed bag," recording demos for music publishing companies, sometimes 10 tunes in a six-hour stretch with zero preparation time.

How do you prepare for a concert? How much time do you spend preparing for each performance?

The symphony mails our sheet music to us several weeks prior to the concert, and I'll start practicing that so that I can play all the notes on my part before the first rehearsal. When the orchestra is rehearsing, we're spending our time and energy putting things together, as opposed to learning our individual parts.

Do you practice every day? How long?

I have two types of practicing. The maintenance practicing - the flexibility, exercise the scales, arpeggios and then learning new music. I practice about two, three hours every day.

Do you have a day job?

I am a full-time freelance musician. I do a little bit of teaching - privately and at Shepherd University.

Compare playing in the MSO and under Elizabeth Schulze's baton to playing with other orchestras and conductors.

I really like Maryland Symphony. There's a lot of camaraderie. It's a fairly laid-back atmosphere, but we're very serious about the work at the same time. There are other groups that I play in where people are not quite as friendly or easy going about things

Elizabeth Schulze is very, very dedicated and energetic - really working hard to make things happen for the Maryland Symphony and be part of the community. She's really improved the orchestra.

Who's your favorite composer? Do you have a favorite composition?

Oh boy. I'm inclined to say no. My favorite composer is generally what I'm playing right now. Beethoven might have a slight edge.

What kinds of music do you listen to in your leisure time? What's the last CD you bought?

Mostly I listen to jazz. I really like Latin music. I don't listen to classical music recreationally.

Eddie Palmieri, a Latin jazz pianist.

What's your favorite "nonclassical" piece of music?

No, I really can't say - there's just too much stuff.

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