Casey Cronan, originally from Milford, CT, holds a bachelor‘s degree in French Horn Performance from New York University and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in French Horn Performance at Purchase College. She has been a member of Washington Square Winds, a woodwind quartet dedicated to performing and commissioning new works, since 2011. Casey recorded on Washington Square Wind’s 2014 album They’re Alive. She frequently performs in NYC with various groups such as Loft Opera, Chappaqua Orchestra, and the New York Opera Exchange.
In honor of the first week of my final semester as a student at Purchase College, I would like to share my New Semester Resolutions and Challenges for 2018:
1. Lose the valves!
One year ago, I signed out the school’s natural horns out of curiosity more than anything. I found the natural horn to be far more taxing than my modern horn, but it was also rewarding to play classical repertoire on the horn for which it was written. Although I have enjoyed playing without valves, this horn is unforgiving, meaning I must go back to basics. Foremost, intonation is challenging, particularly on half stopped or quarter stopped notes, but by using both drones and visual tuning aids, I am improving my ear for natural and modern horn. The second main challenge of playing the natural horn is that all the work put in bending pitches drains my endurance much faster than other types of playing. This semester I challenge myself to practice smart. Expanding my endurance will happen gradually, so I resolve to respect my embouchure instead of imposing more time on the face because I have a practice timeframe in mind. In the end, relearning the basics of horn playing on a natural horn should directly benefit my contemporary horn playing.
2. Perform difficult, but rewarding works!
Years ago, I happened upon the Henri Tomasi Concerto for Horn and Orchestra and found this piece to be exciting to practice, but too intimidating to consider programming on a recital. Much of the piece exists in the upper register with several prolonged notes at the top of my register. It has strange leaps and arpeggios, but should be played as if it is easy. This semester, I will perform my second Master’s recital at Purchase and although it may be prudent to choose safe pieces, I have decided to program this rarely performed gem in addition to Mozart Horn Concerto 3 on natural horn!
3. Comprehend intricate theory!
For my final semester, I challenge myself to analyze music that I had thought to be inscrutable. To that end, I have enrolled myself into a course that teaches 20th century post tonal theory. My end-of-semester goal is to understand how selected atonal pieces are constructed, to describe at length the intricacies of works out of the Second Viennese School and to dive into the history. Students of this course are also encouraged to use these methods to compose and perform works in class. In the past, I would have dreaded such a test, but I have decided to take control of this final semester and embrace the difficulties and the progress.
4. Turn mock auditions into real auditions!
Occasionally, I would hear of an audition in the area, but I usually balk at the idea of taking an audition. I would make up excuses telling myself that there are surely innumerable people applying for the same job that have more prestigious resumes and renown, so why should I bother? This semester, I challenge myself to take an audition. I am fortunate to be in a program right now that incorporates excerpt classes and mock auditions into the curriculum. With the wealth of resources available to me as a student, I resolve to face my fear of auditions and start taking those risks.
5. Being kind to yourself!
This is the most important resolution that I need to take to heart. Any time spent talking myself down or thinking I’m not worthy compared to others is time that cannot be spent working toward goals. It is not helpful to derive self-worth from playing everything perfectly all the time, as it has in the past, discouraged me from reaching my potential because I assumed I would not be good enough compared to the innumerable imaginary people who are better than me. Instead, this semester, I will practice waking up knowing I am already a worthy person just as I am, therefore I should play the horn to earn the life I want, rather than picking up the horn to scrape morsels of fleeting confidence. I resolve this semester and beyond to be an unshakable friend to myself and welcome whatever the future holds.