KALAMAZOO—A recent Western Michigan University graduate took home two prestigious awards at the International Horn Society's 45th annual symposium staged at the University of Memphis in Tennessee July 29-Aug. 3.
Paul Clifton of Howell, Mich., one of five finalists worldwide selected to vie in the symposium's 2013 Premier Soloist Competition, placed second in this contest. For his lauded performance, he is to receive a $1,000 prize and a three-year International Horn Society membership.
In addition, Clifton clinched the top prize in the society's Dorothy Frizelle Orchestral Audition Competition for high horn, besting more than a dozen other players. He won a coaching session with an orchestral artist and a one-year horn society membership as a result.
"He was at the top of his game last week," says Dr. Lin Foulk, associate professor of music and Clifton's longtime teacher and mentor at WMU.
Foulk directs the Western Horn Choir, a student ensemble that performed in concert at the symposium. Clifton played with the choir, but was the only member to take part in competitions at this annual conference that attracts hundreds of horn players from around the world.
"Dozens of professional horn players came up to me after both competitions and congratulated me on how well he played," Foulk says. "I think this experience convinced Paul that he truly has a special talent and that he is successful and competitive as a performer on a national level."
Clifton, who studied horn performance at WMU and graduated in June, says he only knew a moment of nerves at the solo competition before plunging into the first movement of Mozart's second horn concerto and then Eugène Bozza's "En Forêt."
"It was the best I had ever played those pieces," he says.
It was a few days after his performance that Clifton learned he was one of the top finishers in the soloist competition and was pleased with the outcome overall.
"There were a few things that didn't go as I wanted, but in hindsight it was very successful," he says.
Doing so well in the orchestral audition competition was also affirming, since orchestral performance has been his primary focus. The orchestral competition, which was essentially a mock audition, may have been good preparation for what's ahead for this new alumnus of the WMU School of Music. He will be auditioning for several orchestras this fall.
Clifton also will be playing with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra and providing private lessons to students at two area school districts. To top it off, he will perform as a member of Western Wind Quintet, substituting for Foulk while she is on sabbatical during the coming academic year.