Kurt Civilette's Biography

Kurt playing

Kurt Civilette is a professional performer and teacher based in East Lansing, Michigan. His orchestra positions include principal horn in South Bend Symphony, Principal horn in Midland(MI) Symphony, 3rd horn and brass quintet in Ann Arbor Symphony, and 3rd horn in Flint Symphony. He is the horn instructor at the MSU Community Music School and horn professor at Lansing Community College. From 2010-2012 he taught as visiting professor at Michigan State College of Music. His audition preparation class was a new addition to the MSU schedule, helping aspiring professional players develop their poise and confidence through mock auditions and studying mental training techniques.

photo: St Louis Symphony section, May 2010

St Louis Symphony section, May 2010

For 15 years from 1995-2010, Kurt was full-time 3rd horn/associate principal with New Mexico Symphony in Albuquerque, substituting as interim principal horn for the entire 2001-02 season. Before winning the permanent job in New Mexico, he held temporary positions as principal horn with Charleston (SC) Symphony, acting principal horn of the Savannah(GA) Symphony, and assistant principal with Honolulu Symphony. While in New Mexico he was also 3rd horn with Santa Fe Symphony and appeared with Santa Fe Opera orchestra, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and enjoyed playing with Broadway touring shows and for big name entertainers. He is on sub lists for major orchestras, and within the last 3 years has played extra with Detroit, St Louis, and Utah Symphonies and Santa Fe Opera.

photo: Ann Arbor Symphony, April 2011, Mahler 3rd Symphony

Ann Arbor Symphony, April 2011,
Mahler 3rd Symphony

In Michigan, he maintains an active playing schedule. He is in demand as a guest principal in many local orchestras, playing that role with Michigan Opera Theater, Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor, Flint, West Michigan, Saginaw Bay, Windsor (CA), and Midland symphonies.

Kurt got his training at Northwestern University, studying with Chicago Symphony members Dale Clevenger and Richard Oldberg and renowned teacher Eugene Chausow. He earned a B.Mus. in horn performance and concurrently graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in computer science through a 5-year double degree program. He worked full-time as a computer programmer for Aon Corporation briefly, but felt he needed to continue pursuing his horn playing career with his full attention, enrolling in graduate studies at DePaul University and studying with Jon Boen. Although he didn't finish that degree, he credits that year of intense study and freelancing with moving him up to a new level of playing and allowing him to finally be competitive at auditions. Since then he has won or been a finalist in dozens of auditions.

As a successful freelance musician during the early 90s, he appeared with Chicago Lyric Opera, Chicago Symphony, Grant Park Symphony, Chicago Sinfonietta, Chicago Opera Theater, Jacksonville, North Carolina and South Bend Symphonies, and played many commercial jingles and recording sessions. He held permanent positions with regional orchestras, including principal horn with Illinois Philharmonic and 3rd horn with Northwest Indiana Symphony.

As a soloist, he appeared with NMSO on several occasions, most recently as a featured soloist during the 2005-06 season on tours and community concerts, playing the seldom-performed virtuoso work, the Concertino for horn and orchestra by Carl Maria von Weber six times. You can listen to one of the performances from a live broadcast by visiting the media page.

Quoting from a January 27th, 2006 Albuquerque Journal review:

The Concertino for Horn in E major, however, is rarely played. The term concertino indicates a short concerto, often times less demanding on the soloist. Not so with this work. The solo part is treacherously demanding, and Kurt Civilette tackled it with the dexterity of an athlete, taking the instrument rapidly up and down the compass of the horn, even including the rarely-used technique of polyphonics, the horn equivalent of double stops--a bizarre sound to be sure.

While in school, Kurt won student solo competitions at both Northwestern and DePaul, performing Strauss' 2nd horn concerto with DePaul orchestra, and 3rd horn on Schumann Konzertstuck with the NU symphony.

photo: MSU faculty recital, March 2011

MSU faculty recital, March 2011

Kurt is an active chamber musician, he was a member of the NMSO principal woodwind quintet for 15 years. As a member of the New Mexico woodwind quintet, he played children's concerts and musicales for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. As a freelance player in Chicago, he toured with the Chicago Brass quintet. In the fall of 2010, Kurt appeared with the CUBE contemporary music ensemble in Chicago in a special program dedicated to Gunther Schuller's music, playing Schuller's woodwind quintet with coaching and direction by the composer. Kurt currently performs with the Ann Arbor Symphony brass quintet and South Bend Symphony woodwind quintet in educational programs and outreach concerts.

photo: Santa Fe Chamber Music festival party with myself, Bill Barnewitz, Gunther Schuller, Julie Landsman

Santa Fe Chamber Music festival
party with myself, Bill Barnewitz,
Gunther Schuller, Julie Landsman

During the summers, Kurt plays principal horn with the Southern Illinois Music festival in Carbondale. He has appeared in various US and international summer festivals including Spoleto festival in USA and Italy, the Assisi festival (Italy), the Kumamoto festival in Japan, and Music from Angel Fire. Kurt has performed as an extra player with Santa Fe Opera since 1998, most recently during the summer 2011 season.

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