Considered one of the finest French horn players in the country, David Jolley never would have thought of playing the instrument if it weren't for his public school.
Jolley, who is the guest solo artist for the Modesto Symphony Orchestra's next concert, said he learned about the instrument in fifth grade.
"I remember walking out in the hall and there was a snail-shaped case there and they said, 'Why don't you give it a try,'" the 57-year-old musician said in a phone interview from his New York City home. "I loved it the minute I heard it."
Jolley will play Richard Strauss' Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major under the direction of Lara Webber, who is the fourth of five candidates auditioning to conduct the orchestra. The program also will include Beethoven's "Lenore" Overture No. 3 and Sibelius' Symphony No. 1 in E Minor.
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The Strauss concerto is one of the most famous pieces in the horn repertoire and is a favorite of Jolley's. The composer wrote it when he was in his late teens for his father, Franz Strauss, one of the most celebrated horn players of his day.
"It's sunny, warm, lovely music, so I always enjoy playing it," Jolley said, adding that it shows a full range of what the horn can do.
Raised in Los Angeles, Jolley was introduced to music by his mother, who was a choir director and organist. He sang in her choirs before starting on the horn in school.
He knew by the ninth grade that he wanted to make the horn his career. He studied with Hollywood studio musicians, then moved to New York at their recommendation and graduated from the Juilliard School.
He is a member of the Fleisher-Jolley-Tree-O, with pianist Leon Fleisher and violinist Michael Tree and is a founding and emeritus member of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in New York City.
A music educator as well, he serves on the faculties of four schools: Queens College and Mannes College of Music in New York, the North Carolina School of the Arts and the Colburn School Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles. He said he spends a lot of time on airplanes traveling among the colleges.
While he loves the opportunity to work one-on-one with students, he also is happy to perform.
"After a week of teaching 20 to 30 hours, it's nice to pick up your horn and just play," he said with a laugh. "You don't have to tell anybody anything."
Conductor candidate Lara Webber will be profiled in Sunday's Friends & Family section.
WHAT: French horn soloist David Jolley, Modesto Symphony Orchestra
WHEN: 8 p.m. Feb. 9-10 and 2 p.m. Feb. 11
WHERE: Modesto High School auditorium, First and H streets