The International Horn Competition of America; what is it and how can you be involved? December 13 2016, 0 Comments

Alan Mattingly, Professor of Horn at the University of Nebraska, was the host of the 2015 International Horn Competition of America. We thought it would be a great idea to report news about this event to horn players, teachers, and the horn industry to expand the knowledge base. The event relies on sponsorship, so here is your chance to get involved! Siegfried's Call has taken on a leadership role in this, and would love to have other businesses and manufacturers do the same. The more that a team of vendors pushes forward financially, the bigger the winnings could be for the performers, so both the business teamwork and the artist rewards results in a clear win-win. Alan has direct insight regarding the event, and has shared the following with us all. (bvp)

"The competition has been in existence for more than 30 years"

The International Horn Competition of America (formerly the American Horn Competition) came into being because two people wanted to promote a higher standard for US horn soloists.

In 1975 Elliott Higgins (a Cleveland area hornist and conductor) and George McCracken (horn designer for King Musical Instruments) attended the IHS Symposium near Montreal and observed a contrast between American horn soloists who sat and played from music and European soloists who stood and performed from memory.
Higgins and McCracken decided to create an American solo horn competition, named the Heldenleben International Horn Competition. Its goals were to showcase American horn soloists and encourage horn professors to teach the solo literature, in addition to standard etudes and orchestral excerpts.

The first Competition was held in 1976 at Cleveland State University. Judges included Higgins, McCracken, Antonio Lervolino, Louis Stout, Bill Slocum, and Burton Hardin. In 1980 Higgins moved to New Mexico and McCracken to Williamsburg VA. They agreed to have two competitions, with Higgins running a Western competition and McCracken, an Eastern one. The 1981 competition was the last for McCracken. 

In the west, the first American Horn Competition in 1981 was hosted by W. Peter Kurau of the University of Missouri at Columbia, who now teaches at the Eastman School of Music and is Principal Horn of the Rochester Philharmonic. 

In 1983, Higgins contacted Steven Gross, the first Heldenleben winner, to host the next American Horn Competition.  Two years later, Steve was asked to chair the competition, with Higgins remaining a board member and Director Emeritus. At this time, Steve incorporated the competition as a non-profit organization and divided the solo competition into three rounds, covering the gamut of literature required of a horn soloist.

For more information about the IHCA, please visit their website at:

The 2015 International Horn Competition of America was held from August 28th - 30th at the University of Nebraska Lincoln’s Glenn Korff School of Music in Lincoln, Nebraska.  The hosts for the competition were Dr. Alan Mattingly, Professor of Horn at UNL, and Dr. Jacqueline Mattingly, Lecturer of Music History and Chief Advisor for BA and BM degrees at UNL. The competition remains one of the most prestigious venues for solo horn performance in the world. This year, the three-day, three-round event attracted competitors from across 26 states and 6 countries for prizes totaling $7000.  

Alan started his association with the competition back in the 80's, when he competed in the University Division as a student. Very soon after he started teaching at the college level in the early 90's, he was regularly on the judging panel of the University Division.  During that time he created the first web page for the IHCA and ultimately became its electronic media coordinator and a member of the Board of Advisors. This longtime association with the IHCA naturally lead to a desire to actually host the event, which finally came to pass in 2015.



Alan's wife Jackie became involved with no coercion whatsoever!  Jackie and Alan always tackle big projects together, so it made logical sense that hosting the IHCA would be a similar venture. They both have their Doctoral degrees in Horn Performance, so the background is obviously there. According to Alan, she is amazing at making contacts, networking, and IS the reason that they were so successful in securing the sponsorship for prizes this year!


"Two separate categories: a University Division and Professional Division"

The IHCA is divided into two separate categories: a University Division and Professional Division.  Round 1 of each division requires competitors to perform the first movement of a Mozart concerto and a second piece from a given list.  Those advancing to Round 2 must perform an unaccompanied work chosen from a list of seven pieces.  The third and final round consists of an entire three-movement concerto. 

Although there is no set limit on the number of competitors who can advance to the final round, at the 2015 IHCA three competitors from each division advanced to the Round 3, which was held on August 30th in Kimball Recital Hall at the University of Nebraska Lincoln.  Following are the results:

Professional Division
First Prize - Austin Larson 
Second Prize - Zeng Yun 
Finalist - Chris Williams 

University Division 
First Prize - Benjamin Bacni 
Second Prize - Cynthia Simpson 
Finalist - William Loveless 

"...the incredible generosity of its sponsors..."

The prizes at the 2015 IHCA were the highest in the history of the event.  This is due to the incredible generosity of its sponsors, who support horn playing at all levels and recognize the importance of events such as the IHCA.  2015 marked the first year that sponsors were approached to support cash prizes of the IHCA, and we were thrilled to receive contributions from local businesses, Lincoln-based foundations, individual horn players, and established horn companies.  The 2015 IHCA sponsors were:

Siegfried’s Call
The Cooper Foundation
The Lincoln Community Foundation
Union Bank and Trust
Harris Academy of the Arts
Speedway Properties
Friends of Jack Snider
Curtis Rogers, Family Heritage Insurance

"...will continue to attract the highest caliber horn player..."

Mattingly is hopeful that the trend of prize sponsorship from horn makers, suppliers, and distributors continues for future IHCA events.  “Getting horn-related companies involved in the IHCA is a fantastic way to promote and advertise their products and services. And by increasing the cash prizes for the IHCA winners, we will continue to attract the highest caliber horn player to this competition for years to come."

In addition, Alan stated the entire event went about as smoothly as it could have gone.  He and Jackie started their preparation more than a year in advance to make sure all of the bases were covered.  Also, the support from the Glenn Korff School of Music throughout the planning stage, and the help from all of the staff during the event, made our job remarkably easy. 

The next International Horn Competition of America takes places in 2017 at Colorado State University.



Compiled by Barbara Van Pelt, MM Music (horn) Hartt ('87)