Wa-Hi French horn soloist featured in symphony concert

Kyli Humphreys laughs with another French horn player at practice with the wind section Monday on the Walla Walla University campus.

Kyli Humphreys laughs with another French horn player at practice with the wind section Monday on the Walla Walla University campus. Photo by Greg Lehman.

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It will be her first featured spot with the Walla Walla Symphony, but at just 17, Kyli Humphreys is an accomplished French horn soloist.

Humphreys, a Walla Walla High School senior, will play the third movement of Mozart’s “Horn Concerto No. 3” during the free Family Concert and Foodraiser at 7 p.m. Nov. 21 in Whitman College’s Cordiner Hall.

If you go

Admission to the Walla Walla Symphony performance at 7 p.m. on Nov. 21 is free with the donation of a nonperishable food item. The annual “Foodraiser” concert last year collected 2,171 pounds of items for the Blue Mountain Action Council food bank.

Featured along with Kyli Humphreys French horn solo of Mozart’s “Horn Concerto No. 3,” the Symphony also will perform Gregory Smith’s “The Orchestra Games,” with Kevin Loomer narrating.

The performance will be repeated Nov. 22 for area students in grades three through five

Humphreys has performed with the Walla Walla Symphony Youth Orchestra, for which she is the first horn, and she competes yearly in a regional and state soloist competition. She also plays with the Oregon East Symphony in Pendleton, the Walla Walla University Wind Symphony and the high school wind ensemble.

She does get nervous before performing, Humphreys said, but combined with two hours a day practicing — when performing doesn’t get in the way — she spends about 28 hours a week playing the French horn.

“I always get really nervous before I go on,” Humphreys said, “but once I start playing, I’m OK.

“I definitely enjoy playing solos,” she said. “It’s a rush, to say the least.”

And Humphreys has experience with this particular movement as well.

“It’s not that terribly difficult,” she said of the Mozart piece. “The technical part of it is pretty easy, it’s the phrasing that makes it more difficult.

“It’s making everything clean and clear that makes it hard,” Humphreys said.

Humphreys is hoping to continue her musical education after she graduates this spring. She has visited or is planning to visit the University of Washington, Brigham Young, Oregon State, Utah State, Central Washington and the University of Montana for auditions and to see which program she likes the most. She plans to major in French horn performance.

Humphreys doesn’t plan on spending the rest of her career in a classroom, however.

“I would like to perform (after college),” Humphreys said, “but if I end up needing more money I will probably teach somewhere.”

She first began playing French horn in middle school by happenstance — all the other instruments were chosen — and the instrument stuck with her. The daughter of former longtime Wa-Hi softball coach Jerry Humphreys, she played softball as a youth, but gave it up to focus on the French horn in high school.

“Just, I really like its sound,” Humphreys said. “It’s a difficult instrument to play, which makes it more fun to play. I like a challenge.”

And Humphreys has been successful with the horn. She competed in the Washington Music Educators Association regional and state Solo and Ensemble Contests for the past three years. She won the regional competition in both her senior and junior years and placed on the honor roll her senior year.

She also recently returned from a 10-day trip to Brisbane, Australia, for the Pacific Honors Ensemble Program — an elite clinic at Griffith University.

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