To the uninitiated, it’s the French horn — though that’s a bit of a misnomer. To its players and students, it’s simply a horn, an instrument that has featured in orchestras for centuries.

The horn’s sound is easily recognizable thanks to the prominent role it’s played in some of the most epic classical songs and movie themes. But it’s still an uncommon instrument, and not the easiest one to build community around. To that end, dozens of horn players head into the woods in the White Mountains every summer to celebrate and learn more about their instrument.

The Kendall Betts Horn Camp in New Hampshire attracts players of all abilities, including aspiring professionals like 22-year-old Torrin Hallett of Wisconsin. When he first attended four years ago, it sealed his fate.

“It was just incredible,” Hallett says. “I had never before been in a place where everybody just spoke horn all the time.”

The sounds and language of the horn emanate from wood cabins from morning until night as teachers like Bernhard Scully, a horn professor from the University of Illinois, guide study groups divided by age and ability. He says that in one week, participants absorb about a semester’s worth of training — finding kindred spirits in the process.

“It’s sort of a family,” Scully says. “For all of us, wherever we are in the world, whatever we’re doing, this is a place where we can come and convene, sit together, eat together, commune together about all things related to horn, all in a positive, non-competitive environment.”

Image Info: Camp staffer Abby Martin (left) and veteran camper Torrin Hallett (right) play their horns at the Kendall Betts Horn Camp.
Patty Wight/Maine Public Radio

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