Q&A with Principal Horn Jeffrey Fair

Jeffrey Fair, photo by Rodger Burnett

Jeffrey Fair, the Seattle Symphony’s newly appointed Principal Horn, is a passionate educator, new-music lover and model train enthusiast. Below, he describes his musical journey to our Education and Community Manager, Laura Reynolds (who is a horn player herself!).

LR: Congrats on your recent appointment as Principal horn. You’ve been a member of the Seattle Symphony horn section since 2003 — what has your experience been playing in the Orchestra for 10 years, and how have your responsibilities changed as Principal?

JF: The last 10 years have been wonderful!  It has been a great experience to learn from all my colleagues, including playing in a section with the former Seattle Symphony Principal Horn, John Cerminaro. Playing in a section with him was an amazing experience and an inspiring one. In a way, playing with these great colleagues over the last 10 years has inspired me to push my own abilities more and more to reach this point where I feel like it’s time for me to take the principal role.

My role now is to lead and communicate with the horn section and to bring my musical ideas to the stage when I perform the great orchestral works of the world.

LR: This concert season has featured a number of pieces that highlight the horn (like the upcoming Beethoven Symphony No. 7 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5). Is there a particular piece or musical passage that inspires you?

JF: We also have the Bruckner Symphony No. 4 coming up, which is a piece on which I’ve never performed as principal and one that I’ve always wanted to play. So, I’m particularly excited about performing that with our former Music Director Gerard Schwarz. I’m also excited to explore new works come June with Maestro Morlot. The new works I’m looking forward to playing the most are the premiere of John Luther Adams’ Become Ocean and performing the Britten War Requiem.

LR: Nerdy horn-player question: What kind of French horn do you play?

JF: I play an Engelberg-Schmid triple horn. I bought it new in 2000 and feel like I’m finally figuring out how to play it.

LR: On April 7 you’re performing in Soundbridge’s First Concert series — a series tailored for kids to learn more about the instruments of the orchestra and to meet our musicians. Can you share some of your early musical memories?

JF: There’s one story that I like to tell about how I chose the horn, which is the first instrument I played. When I was 11, I insisted on playing the horn even though they wanted all the brass players to start on trumpet or trombone. My grandmother had given me some stickers that had a horn and my name on them when I was really young and it inspired me to play that instrument. I still have one of them stuck on one of my mutes. I also listened to lots of records as a kid. My mom was an amateur flute player and loved the Boston Pops so we’d watch them on TV and listen to records together.

LR: It sounds like music was a big part of your family when you were a child. What is your experience as a music educator and why do you feel this education work is so important?

JF: I enjoy teaching people of all abilities, from beginners to the most advanced players. I believe that the Seattle Symphony’s efforts to reach audiences of all ages is invaluable and that is why I’m thrilled to participate in all varieties of educational activities. That said, playing a musical instrument oneself is the best way to develop a lifelong love of music. I hope that the First Concert series will inspire kids and parents to grab an instrument and begin learning themselves.

LR: Outside of music, what are your favorite things to do in your free time?

JF: There are lots of things that I like to do in my free time. Kids are a big part of my free time — I have one child and another one on the way next month. I also enjoy gardening (I just finished planting 15 trees in the yard), working on my model railroad set, and I love to cook and experiment with re-creating restaurant meals at home.