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Bringing the brass – music students resound at Mozart competition

Alan Flurry

In March 2019, University of Georgia graduate student Dilon Bryan won the Pro-Mozart Society of Atlanta Music Scholarship Competition to study at the University of Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, becoming only the second horn player to win a competition usually dominated by pianists and vocalists.

A graduate teaching assistant and master’s student in horn performance in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, Bryan joins his UGA colleague as the competition’s other horn musician winner.

Just two years ago, Andrew Sehmann, became the first horn play to ever win the Music Scholarship Competition. While at Mozarteum Salzburg, he studied orchestra performance with conductor Bruno Weil and opera performance with conductor Kai Röhig. For the opera, the students played original instruments from the time of Mozart. 

Currently a doctoral candidate in performance,Sehmann is a member of the Southern Wind Quintet and the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra.

“Before, most of my practice was focused on being accurate and not missing any notes, but when I was at the Mozarteum, most of my study was about the musicality, making the music enjoyable to listen to. It changed my philosophy on learning,” says Sehmann.

He also encouraged Bryan to enter the competition. “We were always in friendly competition. I thought his music was sounding good, and he’s good at playing the super flashy kind of music that would get their attention. It will be a good experience for him after he graduates.” 

The Pro-Mozart Society of Atlanta, a non-profit started by Nellie Bunzl, wife of Austrian Consul General Robert M. Bunzl,in 1964, was established to bring great music to Atlanta and provide a program of classical music performances while promoting interest in the works of Mozart. In 1967, Salzburg and Atlanta became sister cities and the competition to attend the International Summer Academy at Mozarteum Salzburg began. Since then, the Pro-Mozart Society has sent over 45 students to study in Salzburg. 

The Music Scholarship Competition consists of two parts, the first of which is a 20-minute recording. For his recording, Bryan performed a movement of Mozart's 4th Horn Concerto, third movement of Gordon Jacob Concerto, and an unaccompanied solo titled ‘Japan’ from Vitaly Buyanovsky's Four Improvisations. 

The contestants chosen to continue to the second part of the competition perform a live concert in Atlanta. For his live performance, Bryan selected repertoire from his recent recital which included En Forêt by Eugène Bozza, Corrado Maria Saglietti's Suite for Horn, as well as a Mozart movement recorded for the preliminary round. 

“I honestly was a bit surprised [I won],” Bryan said. “I knew I gave it my best, but I was left fairly uncertain of what the result might look like. Later that evening, I actually had to catch a flight to Minnesota and was going to skip out on the announcement of the winner to make it to the airport on time. The competition proctor and music minister of the church ran outside as I was packing the car to leave and hit the road; she insisted that I stay for just ten more minutes. I was handed a certificate and announced the winner.”

Both students attribute much of their continued progress as musicians to the horn studio at UGA, under the teaching and guidance of Jean Martin-Williams, professor of horn in the Hodgson School and associate dean in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

“Dr. Martin-Williams always encourages me to embark on new and exciting opportunities that allow me to network with people from all walks of life,” Bryan says. “She helped me prepare my repertoire for my recital while simultaneously helping with my preparation for what felt like an additional recital for the semester.”

Once in Salzburg, Bryan plans to continue studying horn and Alexander Technique, a movement-based method of learning to release harmful tension in the body. This will help Bryan with his stage presence. 

“I hope to build meaningful relationships with musicians who come from all over the world, while also refining my approach to my instrument,” says Bryan. 

“I always encourage my students to get outside of Athens to study and collaborate. Learning from different professors and peers gives them a rich perspective to bring back to Athens. The level of player at the Mozarteum is extremely high,” said Martin-Williams. “As Andrew learned, you have to be at the very top of your game to succeed there. His time in Salzburg led to other performing opportunities in Europe and the U.S. I know Dilon will have a similar experience. The stress is high, but the return is a beautiful reminder of why one is a musician.”

After graduation, Bryan plans to continue his studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, getting his Doctoral of Musical Arts under Michael Thornton, principal horn of the Colorado Symphony. 

Martin-Williams said, “My collaborators in the horn studio, formerly Dr. Cathy Kilroe-Smith and currently Dr. James Naigus, set the standards high for the horn students. It is the students who have to put in the work. We all rejoice when opportunities come along such as this one.”


Article written by Katie Cowart.

Image: L-R Dr. Jean Martin-Williams, Dilon Bryan, Andrew Sehmann, Dr. James Naigus. Photo by Katie Cowart


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