Conservatory Spotlight: Valerie Ankeney

Valerie Ankeney, horn

Valerie Ankeney, 22, is a first year Master of Music student studying with Andrew Bain. She started playing the horn in 6th grade in her hometown of Dayton, Ohio.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and style.

Why did you choose Colburn?
Because of Andrew Bain. He’s an incredible teacher and performer. It’s so inspiring to go across the street to the Walt Disney Concert Hall and see him play Principal Horn with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and hearing him on movie soundtracks like Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Getting to see exactly what he teaches in his playing is so motivating. He’s taught me so much about efficiency and how to make my playing sound easy and free, and every time you hear him play he does exactly that. He is such a genuine, kind person and really down-to-earth, and because of that in addition to being a stellar musician, he’s such a great role model.

What’s it like being on this Colburn Chamber Music Society concert with the LA Phil Brass and being able to play with him?
It’s really thrilling. Playing with the other members of the LA Phil is so inspiring and is a taste of my career dream of being able to collaborate with professional musicians at this phenomenal level while making music and feeding off of each other.

How would you compare playing in a chamber group to playing in an orchestra?
Playing in a wind quintet really allows me to blend and learn the horn’s role among other wind instruments. It teaches me important qualities of playing in an orchestra because I get to know the boundaries and limits of the horn in contrast with other instruments, since it’s a much louder instrument than others. Being able to recreate that exact blend within all the winds, using the delicate articulations and styles needed to play in a chamber group, really does carry over to orchestral playing.

Why did you choose the horn?
The horn drew my attention because of the sound; it’s really beautiful. There’s no other instrument that can compare. My grandpa had played the trumpet, so when I was little; I also wanted to play the trumpet. However, my mom thought that maybe I should try the horn because it would be more unique; she said that there’s always lots of trombones and trumpets. She said, ‘Just try it out. If you like it, we’ll stick with it. If not, you can change.’ So I’m glad that I took her advice to go with the horn.

Do you come from a musical family?
I do. My mom was a general music teacher and my dad plays jazz organ for fun.

Why do you love classical music?
I love being able to share my passion with others, and for audience members to be able to attend a concert and to leave having a connection or emotional feeling that really nothing else besides music can achieve is really rewarding. Music is a really powerful source of energy that can connect with other people.

What are your hobbies outside music?
I do enjoy studying the German language, because music plays a huge role in my life. You see a lot of German terms and language in music, so it’s nice being able to have some background in another language to be more familiar with what you’re playing. There are many composers like Strauss and Mahler where you might have to look up some words in their pieces, so it’s nice already knowing some of the terminology.

It’s your first year at Colburn. What has your experience been like so far?

Colburn is a really special place and I’m so blessed and fortunate to be here. The talent here is absolutely stunning! Getting to work with people you go to class with and later seeing them perform on stage blows me away. Since Colburn is such a small community, it’s really like a family. The support system here is really admirable, which I find extremely important in music.

Living here and being surrounded with such amazing colleagues is constant inspiration and motivation. When someone is playing something that sounds incredible, I have to try to figure out how they get it to sound so great. In the evenings, I like to walk around downtown and see the lights around Walt Disney Concert Hall and at Colburn. Traveling at night is fun, even going down the street to get some groceries at Whole Foods. You can even see the Hollywood sign from my room.