Q+A with Adam Schommer

Adam Schommer, hornist and pedagogue, performs the Strauss Second Horn Concerto with TCS. Catch up with Adam, his likes, dislikes, and thoughts on the piece before the concert. We look forward to welcoming you this Friday night!

TCS: Tell us a little bit about yourself!

AS: Born and raised in Monroe, NY (Orange County) into a musical family. My father is a clarinetist and my mom has been teaching piano lessons since always. I had a great-uncle who played violin with the Boston Symphony, my father’s parents were organists/pianists in the Twin Cities, I have a cousin who is now an accomplished world percussionist and a founding member of Stomp, and my paternal grandparents were both well-known organists and accompanists in the St. Paul, MN area. So with that background, I really had no choice but to follow in the family trade. Besides music, I grew up hiking and camping on the Appalachian Trail and playing in the woods. We played a lot of games and read a lot of books growing up; we were always encouraged to use our imaginations. I wish I had more time for all of that these days, but I’m very busy substitute teaching (I’m nearly a certified music teacher), practicing (anyone know of a way I can get paid to do it?), and freelancing all over the place. How about a favorites list? Books: Dune, Lord of the Rings, Siddhartha, East of Eden, and Man in the High Castle. Movies: Blade Runner, Castle in the Sky, Office Space, Chinatown, and the Evil Dead series. Games: Monopoly, Scrabble, Magic the Gathering, Settlers of Catan, and Dungeons and Dragons. Albums: Rite of Spring by Seiji Ozawa and Chicago Symphony, Graceland by Paul Simon, Queen II by Queen, Headhunters by Herbie Hancock, and The London Horn sound (featuring mind-numbing arrangements for many French horns/Wagner tuben).

TCS: How long have you been in NYC?

AS: Very little actually – I’ve only lived in NYC proper for about two years (a few months in Red Hook, Brooklyn and the rest of that time in Throgg’s Neck, Bronx). I now live up in White Plains where it’s much less crowded. I get a bit claustrophobic spending time in NYC – too much concrete. I need soil to walk on and nature to enjoy. The city’s influence on me is huge, though; my folks made sure my brother and I fully experienced all the culture NYC has to offer. And I played in New York Youth Symphony my junior and senior years of high school. I think that’s the most important part of the city – the hundreds of world cultures all present in the same place is inspiring. Is it the most diverse city in the world? If not, it sure seems like it! It really teaches you that there is only one human race.

TCS: When was your first TCS concert?

AS: My friends here are gonna KILL me for this one, but….I don’t remember!!! I think the first concert I played was the Christmas concert where David Hyde Pierce narrated Aaron Dai’s excellent rendition of “The Night Before Christmas.”

[Editor’s note: we still love you, Adam!]

TCS : What brought you to the group? How did you hear about it, what made you decide to play, etc.

AS: Interesting story – I did not get into this group through fellow musicians. One of my oldest friends, Vincent Nalbone (who never played an instrument) somehow knew Yaniv Segal. Vinny told me about the group and put us in touch… I’ve known Vinny since kindergarten!!!

TCS: Why do you like coming back?

AS: I love this group. Among all the gigs I play, this one is the most personal – it feels like it belongs to everyone who plays here and it constantly inspires me to up my game. It’s always a joy to be around so many excellent colleagues who share the passion for putting good and healing music into the world. We’re not here for money, so it highlights our love of what we do, thus the group has a life to it that many of the other paid gigs I play do not.

TCS: Where would you like to see the group go?

AS: Space, the final frontier….to go where no man has gone before.

TCS: Why did you pick this piece to perform with us?

AS: Strauss’s Second Horn Concerto has been my favorite horn concerto for as long as I can remember. It represents one of the ultimate challenges for us technically, but perhaps more so, musically – you REALLY can’t get away with just playing the notes and expect it to be a good performance. The piece mirrors the way I feel about TCS – it does not belong to the soloist alone, but possesses a unique interplay so complex that it feels more like chamber music than a concerto (especially the second movement!). It calls to mind Strauss’s Serenade for Winds and hearkens back to a less complex time musically, while also never discounting the advances in music that Strauss saw during his lifetime. This concerto also represents my desire to keep improving - at 36, I've already had a long relationship with it (I've used it for a few auditions in the past), and this performance is both a culmination of that experience and a mile-marker. It will clearly show BOTH what I've accomplished on the horn and what I need to get better at!!! That's exciting....and scary all at once!

TCS: What are some of the things you learned while preparing? Was there anything you learned that you didn’t expect to encounter?

AS: My choice deepened my knowledge of how to prepare and learn and practice, and also how to moderate. Practicing this piece – you can’t work the whole piece every day so you really have to be organized with your approach to learning it. Just focusing on a few passages per day over a long time is the way to go. I didn’t expect to encounter such a strong influence from Mozart. Parts of this piece I practice as if I’m practicing Mozart who is not Straussian at all, bearing in mind his tone poems and operas, which are monumental and complex. The return to simplicity is important while you learn this piece; it’s tough not to make it more difficult than it already is!

TCS: Favorite recordings of this piece?

AS: Marie Louise Neunecker with Bamberger Symphoniker and David Jolley with Isreal Sinfonietta. Both recordings are unique in their interpretation and top-tier ensemble playing.


TCS is pleased to present Adam Schommer performing the Strauss Horn Concerto No. 2 on Friday, March 11, at 8:30pm at St. Paul’s Church, 315 W. 22nd St. We look forward to seeing you there!