Nathan Bamberger, horn
Champlain Valley Union High School
Joined VYOA in 2013
VYPhilharmonia – 1 year
VYO – 2 years
What do you love about playing your instrument?
The reason I love playing the horn is because of its versatility. It contains such a wide array of colors and dynamics, and the four octave range is nothing to sneeze at either. As a player you have to have knowledge of how to sound like a brass instrument, a woodwind instrument, and at times a string instrument, jumping in between whenever the moment calls for it. The timbre of the horn allows you to be not only loud and brassy, such as with the Infernal Dance from Stravinsky’s The Firebird Suite, but also smooth and elegant, such as with Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, and also heroic and bold, as with Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben. Knowing how to walk the fine line of these sounds is what makes the horn so amazing to play, constantly shifting the character of your playing to either support or lead sections. You really are the glue that holds the orchestra together, blending the distinct sounds of the three major sections, while also containing enough unique characteristics to have your part stand out.
What has been the most memorable experience you’ve had with VYO?
The most memorable experience I have had with VYO was playing the first and last movements of Borodin’s Symphony No. 2 on our tour of Iceland. At that point I was still in VYP, so being invited to go on the trip was such a huge honor. The first time I saw VYO in concert was during the 2014 OrchestraChorusPalooza concert, where they played the full symphony. I remember thinking that they sounded amazing, and that there was no way I could sound like that. When I found out that I was invited on the tour, and that we would be playing that specific piece, it was a full circle moment for me.
What would you like to change about the classical music world?
If there could be one thing I would change about the classical music world, it would be to make it more diverse. When we talk about the history of classical music, we are almost strictly talking about old white guys, the remnants of that we are still seeing today. Minority groups have so many unique stories to express not only through the music of the great classical composers, but through works of their own. I hope to see someday that a woman conducting a major orchestra isn’t seen as revolutionary, it’s the norm. I hope to see black and latinx musicians get equal opportunities to bear their souls through this great artform. A diverse world means a greater collection of ideas, where we can pull from more experiences and create more interesting music. That is what I hope for in the future of this great artform.
What was your biggest musical breakthrough?
For me, my greatest musical breakthrough was being accepted into Carnegie Hall’s NYO2 program. Coming from Vermont you don’t really get a lot of experiences when it comes to classical music, beside VYO and Allstate. It’s almost like you’re trapped in a musical bubble, without much exposure to the outside world. NYO2 showed me that my level of playing was better than I thought it was, and it gave me the confidence to keep pushing myself beyond what I thought was possible. It exposed me to people who were just as driven and passionate as I was, and gave me a group of friends who help me achieve my highest musical ability. It helped me understand how a professional orchestra runs, and how hard one has to work to get there. The connections I made gave me a greater understanding of my abilities, and how to work with people to make truly exceptional music.
What is the greatest musical challenge you have ever faced?
Without a doubt, soloing with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. It was the first solo I’d ever performed, so I was going into unknown territory. Also, in being asked to perform instead of audition, I felt the pressure of the VSO assuming I was good enough to perform with them, instead of actually earning the opportunity. I was up until midnight and a couple occasions trying to make sure that the more technical passages of the concerto were together and clean, but sometimes it felt that whenever I made a step forward, I took two steps back the next day. I was mentally exhausting, the pressure I had put on myself was hard to deal with sometimes, but when I got onstage during our first rehearsal I felt completely comfortable. That experience taught me that sometimes it’s better to let go than to drill a passage for hours on end. The great thing about live performance is the spontaneity of it, the reality that anything could happen at any time. It’s good to just let things happen every once in a while.
If you could perform with any musician, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
If I could perform with any musician, it would be a five way tie between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Richard Strauss, Richard Wagner, and Gustav Mahler. I know that’s a lot of people, but they were all so titular in the making of how the horn was played/written for. The five of them created revolutionary pieces that expanded the boundaries of the instrument, many of which (to my joy and dread) are played as orchestral excerpts in auditions. Pieces like Götterdämmerung, Don Juan, Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Das Rheingold, Mahler Symphonies No. 1 and 5, Beethoven Symphonies No. 3 and 9, and Mozart’s four horn concertos completely revolutionized the technicality and flexibility that is called for by modern players. To be able to work with these visionaries directly would be the joy of a lifetime.
What do you plan to do after graduation?
I plan to major in orchestral french horn performance, and hopefully land a spot in a professional orchestra after I graduate college. Playing horn is my passion, and even though I haven’t been playing for that long, I feel as though I cannot do anything else. For me it’s not whether or not I want to major in music, it’s a need to major in music. Classical music has taken me so far beyond anything I could have imagined, helping me leave the sometimes confined space that is the Green Mountains, and I hope to be able to play my instrument for as long as humanly possible.