Chris Komer, Principal Horn,
New Jersey Symphony Orchestra
What Kansas City high school did you attend?
Shawnee Mission North.
What years were you involved in YSKC as a student and what was your instrument?
I was in the Junior Youth Symphony form 6th grade until 8th grade and in Youth Symphony from 9th grade til I was a senior. I played the French Horn.
Why did you audition for YSKC?
My horn teacher at the time, Jim Funkhouser was the assistant conductor of the Junior Youth Symphony and suggested I audition.
The first rehearsal I played was Swan Lake. Playing that music with a full symphony of highly motivated young players when I had never played in an orchestra before (or any ensemble larger than the 10 piece band at my elementary school) simply blew my mind! I never recovered! Thankfully!
What did you do in the five years after high school graduation?
I went on to study at Wichita State University (where I was able to win a position with the Wichita Symphony as Third Horn and pay my way through my three years at WSU) then on to the Cleveland Institute for a year where I got to play extra horn with the Cleveland Orchestra and then on to the Manhattan School of Music for a Masters Degree where NYC became a big part of my education.
Can you describe your first time performing on a New York stage?
It really is amazing to perform on Broadway. There is real satisfaction of knowing that all of those hours of hard work actually were not for nothing. It is also amazing to play with folks who have worked as hard as you to be there. The level of playing on Broadway in the pit orchestras is truly astounding and makes you want to pinch yourself when you realize you are a part of it all. I have been a contracted member on 10 different Broadway shows now and subbed on over 50 different shows. (Playing Principal horn in the pit for the most recent revival of West Side Story for a year and a half still takes the cake as my favorite Broadway experience.)
What is one of the main differences between recording and performing live?
Recording can be tedious at times but the end result can knock you out at how good it can sound. The thrill of performing live is still the best thrill of all though.
Tell us about Artist’s Refuge at Thunderhead?
This is truly my life’s project! I’m building a beautiful rustic retreat for creative people and performing artists on 60 acres in the middle of the mountains of Montana! I spend my entire summer there every summer.
What gave you the idea to set up this retreat?
I’m not exactly sure where the idea came from but once I had it, it literally consumed me until I acted upon it.
What is your process for writing original music?
My process is to just sit down and play (at the piano, not the horn) anything, and everything that comes to mind. Old songs, little melodic patterns, chord voicing, simple three chord vamps that I improvise over until a piece starts to take shape. Sometimes it comes to completion quickly sometimes it takes years to be finished. My method is very organic without too much thought involved. I have a lifetime of music that I have performed and listened to to draw on as inspiration. That and a simple walk down a strange street is all it takes sometimes.
What can you tell us about your second album?
All I can tell you is that it is long overdue. LONG overdue, but it will happen and one can’t rush great art right?
HUGE! Playing the greatest music ever written starting when you are in the 6th grade with a great group of like-minded individuals will change the way you look at the entire universe. Forever. I wish every kid had that opportunity. Unfortunately I was in a very small minority. Kansas City is the exception not the norm I’m afraid.
What would you want to say to current YSKC musicians?
I would say this: If you truly love making music above all else why do anything else with your life? Just buckle down and work as hard as you can and take your knocks and get back up. I believe persistence, not talent, is the biggest factor in success.You will have to make sacrifices. You will be hurt and discouraged along the way but lick your wounds and find friends and teachers who will support you and help you when you are insecure and feeling inadequate. To be a professional musician is not an easy path but it is a very rewarding one. You will find help in the most unlikely places and often you WON’T find help where you expect it to be. A life in music is not limited to getting a job with an orchestra. I love my 29-week a year job with the New Jersey Symphony but I love what I do outside of that just as much.