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William (Bill) Ostler | Mid-Michigan Horn Club

William (Bill) Ostler

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My relationship with the horn began in 7th grade. I had been taking group lessons in elementary school on the violin. My high interest in the violin was inspired by a recording of Mendelssohn's violin concerto. Upon entering Junior High School I decided I wanted to be in the band which would lead to the opportunity of being in the "marching band" which appealed to me. The band director, a Mr. Shumate, asked us which instrument we would like to play. He didn't demonstrate (he was a violinist) or even hold up the various instruments, but when he asked who would like to play the French horn, I raised my hand. It sounded different and the "French" reminded me of my mother and her telling me she majored in French in college.
I didn't have any private instruction during my first 3 years with the horn and my grandmother, while visiting us from out-of-town, tried accompanying me on the piano. I remember trying to play Panus Angelicus from a horn/piano book I purchased in a local music store, which I laughingly called it "pains of angels" since my horn sounded so bad.
On entering high school and the band, I asked my mother if I could take some private lessons, since I really didn't know how to play properly and couldn't create a good sound or hit the correct notes while reading the music. I took lessons from a Dr. Fleckinger, who was the music director at the Germania Club in Saginaw. He was a trumpet player, but owned and played the horn as well. I learned a great deal from him and was awarded the "most improved player" in my high school beginning band. Dr. Fleckinger moved and no other instructor was found in Saginaw.
I improved on my own and moved up to the honor band and orchestra in my Junior year. I was the horn selected to be part of a woodwind quintet made up of my peers winning a Germania Music Talent quest award and division first award in the solo/ensemble festival. In my senior year I took over the "first chair" position in the band and orchestrs and was invited to join the Saginaw Youth Symphony under Dr. Sam Jones. I played the 3rd horn parts out of 4 hornists. All this time I had been reading and practicing the Farkas handbook - I guess I was somewhat "self-taught" at that point.
At Delta Community College I helped form the College Singers of Delta and started the first "band" with just a few interested students with the help of my choir director/music fundamentals instructor who was the concert master of the Saginaw Symphony. I borrowed a horn from a former Saginaw Symphony 4th horn player/pianist who was on the staff at the college.
I entered Alma College in my junior year and auditioned for the band, orchestra and choir and was accepted in all three. I decided to minor in music with my major in elementary education. I took private lessons from a musicologist/clarinetist who knew little about brass playing and not much about horn playing. The school did not have a brass instructor at the time. I performed with the Alma Symphony while going to school at Alma, as well as the concert and marching bands and vocal choir. I purchased my first horn with saved money - a rebuilt, although I found that out years later, Alexander 103 standard double horn.
After college I was asked to play 3rd horn in the Saginaw Symphony without an audition. The current bassoonist knew me from Alma and recommended me. It was a nerve-racking experience with the current director at that time. I didn't continue to perform with the SSO.
After letting my horn sit in its case for several years, I began working on horn/piano music with my church organist, Dr. Page Long, PhD. He would even come to my home to accompany me on our Steinway grand piano. He helped me musically and was very supportive. After a number of years I auditioned for the local Germania Club orchestra and was given a 3rd horn position. I performed and regularly rehearsed with that group for many years. At some point, I joined a newly forming "city band". As the years went on I joined a semi-professional concert band and continued to learn by listening and playing with horn players better than myself.
I had heard the Los Angeles Horn Club recordings while I was in high school and decided to start my own horn club in Saginaw. I sent out invitations and got several local horn players -amatures and a couple band teachers to join me. One was Willard Verdun from the Lansing area who drove to Saginaw with his buddy Fred Vanosdall to join me and Steve Burian, the new band teacher at Heritage High School in Saginaw township. I continued to learn from all of them.
I was offered money to take horn lessons from my uncle who gave me enough for 10 lessons. I found a teacher in a nearby city. She was a horn performance major from U of M.
I saved money paid for performing with the paid concert band and purchased a Paxman 20A double horn. I continue to purchase books and methods on playing the horn and have spent a week, twice, at an International Horn Symposium performing, attending lectures and workshops and performances.
I have performed with several local pit orchestras, subbed in another orchestra and formed a number of chamber groups. I started a horn/oboe/pn trio with a friend - performing for Tuesday Musical and churches, as well as soloed with my church choir, and performed numerous solos in church with organ and piano. I currently perform with the Midland Community Orchestra - 2nd horn.
I formed the Saginaw Brass Quintet and continue to perform for fund raisers, church services, clubs, community affairs, assisted living centers, and other events in the Great Lakes Bay Area.
I hope to take lessons again, with Aron Brant [principal horn with the Dayton Philharmonic] in Bay View, MI, the current horn instructor in the summer music festival.