It takes nearly 70 musicians to make beautiful music in The Florida Orchestra, but there's one musician who's been making the music beautiful longer than you might imagine. Carolyn Wahl plays Third French Horn for the orchestra, but she's played a much bigger role than that in her tenure. This weekend, after 47 years of performing with TFO, she's retiring.
What You Need To Know
- Carolyn Wahl is retiring after 47 years from The Florida Orchestra
- She has had many students over the years that have been very successful
- Those in charge say that her attitude and approach were an integral part in the overal performance
“I never thought about it when I first started,” Carolyn said. “Retirement seemed so far off, and it seemed so far off until it wasn’t.” The last half century for her hasn’t only been about playing the French horn, it's also been about teaching it to others.
“This, I’m gonna do until I can’t," she said, laughing. When Carolyn’s not with the orchestra, she's with her students.
“One of my students is principal horn in the Tokyo Symphony, another one is principal in San Francisco Opera and Ballet and another one’s principal horn of The National Opera Orchestra Kennedy Center. Another one is third horn in the symphony. There’s one who is principal trumpet down in Merida, Mexico, and I have another one that's teaching at New England Conservatory, and another one who is the Dean of Music at Oberlin College,” she said about her students. That's a long list of highly successful students that Blake High School junior Andrew Foster hopes to join later in life.
“She's really great, because he assesses you based on like, what you bring into the room”, Andrew said. “And how you're feeling, and also provides resources that help me grow as a horn player.”
Carolyn said, “When you think about it, music, it's notes relating to each other, rhythms relating to each other, phrasing relating to each other. It's all relative. It's all relationship-building, whether with notes or people.” That relationship couldn't be more apparent than the one she has with former student Kaitlyn Resler, who now sits next to her in the orchestra a second French horn.
“It’s crazy going from being in the student-teacher relationship, and then we stayed in touch when I was in college, but now, we're sitting side-by-side," Resler said. “I think what makes her so special as a teacher is that it’s not just about getting better at the horn. It’s about getting better as a person.”
Carolyn believes playing with the Florida Orchestra all these years has made her a better teacher, but Music Director Michael Francis says it's Carolyn who has made the orchestra better.
“Upon the shoulders of giants we stand, and she’s been a giant for The Florida Orchestra," Francis said. He calls her "a mother of the horn," and from that, she will never retire.
“I think everybody should play a musical instrument.” Carolyn said, “I think we would be a better society if everybody played a musical instrument.”