36 Years Ago

36 Years Ago, Vienna 1971—A Student Journal

Day 022: I need a French horn—off to Mainz, Germany


Vienna 1971—A Student Journal
A year of music, study, travel, sightseeing & friends.

Day 22 — I need a French horn—off to Mainz, Germany.
24-August-1971 (Tue.)

Off to Germany


Decided to go to buy my [French] horn.

That night, left for Mainz, Germany on a couchette (bunk-like cots). When you’re laying down, it seems that you won’t get sick. You also can sleep, but not a deep sleep. Altogether, the train ride was pretty good (10 hrs.).


Keeping very busy certainly means working on the German class.

I need to buy a horn. Wham! Another surprise when looking back 36 years. It feels like I suddenly make a decision to buy a French horn. Alas, you know that I must have been thinking of this all along.

I brought $700 of personal savings to buy my French horn. I’ll tell you the type of horn I was planning on buying tomorrow. The hidden clue is that I’m traveling to Mainz, Germany. What French horn manufacturer comes from Mainz, Germany? Tomorrow, the answer.

I know that I was excited, and maybe apprehensive. Regardless, tomorrow is going to be an interesting day. Notice how I learned my lesson about train travel (from a whole whopping 2 days ago), and decided to get a “sleeper” cabin. It’s not private, there were, I believe, probably 4 bunks in each cabin. It sounds like I was more comfortable and less sick. That’s probably the reason for my earlier train travel complaint—motion sickness.

How I got my start in music. It’s time to let you in on a secret as I tell you how I got my start in music.

• My parents started me on accordion perhaps in 3rd or 4th grade. (I think that was my first instrument.)

• In third grade, the band teacher, Mr. S. came in and taught us “tonette” on a plastic $.25 tonette. Today, schools give students real “recorders” to play on. I was good. Mr. S. asked me to join the fourth grade band. He gave me, for “free,” a large brass instrument—the baritone horn.

• In fourth grade, I played the baritone horn and practiced a lot. It’s a big thing for a little kid. I used to CARRY that thing home (1-1/2 blocks) every day in its big case, and with books. I must have loved it. I’m certain that it was the “recognition” that was bestowed upon me—something like, “John, you’re good at music.” I continued in the elementary band for grades 4-6.

• In middle school, grades 7-9, (called “Jr. High School” long ago), I continued to play baritone horn. Now, I’m carrying the damned instrument home mostly every day, AND with school books, for about a mile each way. Was I nuts or what? Maybe the only praise that I got was in my musical skills. (Except that my relatives used to give me quarters and dollars to play the accordion, as well.)

• I must have been good. In eighth grade, I performed a solo baritone horn piece with the band backing me up. Thanks Mr. S. I remember being at the night concert, being trapped on stage with no exit, and so I jumped off a 4-foot high stage-pit wall to exit “stage left.” Truly unorthodox. Thank goodness I didn’t break my leg.
[That’s the boy, John, always rebellious, make a decision, don’t ask permission, act on it, don’t look back. I’m still in trouble today for these same personality traits.]

• Going to high school, they offered me a “free” French horn. I was first horn during my high school years. That must have given me a complex—what instrument makes the most mistakes? French horn. I take a few lessons in senior year and get accepted to college.

• I go to Montclair State College to major in music education with my major instrument as French horn. They give me a “free” brand new silver Holton French horn. I played first horn in Montclair’s bands and orchestras while completing my degree.

What’s the secret? I went through public school without owning an instrument. I graduated with a B.A. in music and a major in French horn without owning my major instrument. I didn't realize how bizarre that was until writing this blog entry. That’s something!

[Remember, my mom supported 5 of us boys. We were somewhat poor. I had good grades and the “system” helped me out. I am grateful and was fortunate.]

An interesting fact—I had a 4-year full-tuition scholarship to go to Montclair State College from the State of New Jersey. I don’t remember exactly, but I think the tuition was “perhaps” $150 a semester or $300 a year? If so, I got a 4-year college education for about $1,200. Now that’s value. We need to roll back tuition prices to these numbers. I could be way off on these numbers. Just guessing.]

When I went to Vienna to study French horn,
I had no French horn. Time to buy one.