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Elizabeth Schellhase Gray, Horn

Elizabeth Schellhase Gray joined the Kansas City Symphony as second horn in November 2009. She previously served as acting fourth horn for the Houston Symphony during their 2008-09 season. As a student of Houston Symphony Principal Horn William VerMeulen, Schellhase Gray earned a bachelor’s degree in horn performance from Rice University with magna cum laude distinction. Upon graduation, she moved to Los Angeles to study with former San Francisco Symphony Principal Horn A. David Krehbiel. She won the position with the Kansas City Symphony during October of her first year there and left school shortly after to join the orchestra. She also has received fellowships to the Tanglewood Music Center, National Repertory Orchestra, Pacific Music Festival and Spoleto USA Festival. Additionally, Gray has played fourth horn for the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder, Colo. As a soloist, she has appeared with the Plymouth (Mich.) Symphony, the Ann Arbor Concert Band and the Plymouth (Mich.) Community Band. Her teachers include Louis Stout, Corbin Wagner and William Brown.

Ten questions about me:

What is your earliest musical memory?

My earliest musical memory is watching opera on television. No matter what was on, we always had to stop on PBS whenever an opera was playing. As a toddler, I didn't care that I couldn't understand the words or the plot...I just fell in love with the music.

How did you choose your instrument?

My mom was a middle school band director, and when the time came to choose an instrument, I told her I wanted to play something hard that had a lot of solos. She brought home the horn and the oboe. I really wanted to play the oboe, but I became less enchanted with the instrument when I discovered the necessity of reed-making. Everyone told me that the horn was the hardest instrument, but I thought it was easy and fun, so I chose it instead.

When did you know you wanted to be a professional musician?

As a four year old, I really wanted to be a coloratura soprano and used to attempt to sing the "Queen of the Night" aria from The Magic Flute while standing on my bed. Unfortunately, I was destined to be an alto. I was then on track to become a concert pianist, but after being in a masterclass with a child prodigy, I realized that probably wasn't going to happen. By then, I really loved playing horn in orchestra and realized in ninth grade that I wanted nothing more than to play horn professionally.

What is the most challenging work for your instrument?

I'm sure there's some crazy piece out there that I am totally unaware of, but the hardest piece I've ever performed is currently a tie between the Ligeti Trio for Violin, Horn, and Piano, and the Elliott Carter Brass Quintet (which I performed at Tanglewood under the guidance of the composer himself).

Other than your Kansas City Symphony concerts, where else can audiences catch you performing in town?

I sing in my church choir and occasionally play horn there as well. Coming up this April, I'm very excited to perform Schumann's Konzertstück for Four Horns with my Kansas City Symphony colleagues at the Mid-South Horn Workshop in Lawrence, KS.

What songs/albums are in your iPod/MP3 Player/CD Player right now?

I have a random mix of Top 40 songs (and a few songs from musicals and Glee) on my iPod right now, which keep me energized when I work out. In my car's CD player is La Bohéme with Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón. I performed La Bohéme for the first time last summer and I love the music so much that I can't stop listening to it.

Who is your most inspiring composer?

It's so hard to choose my most inspiring composer. I draw inspiration from different composers on a daily basis. My favorite composer to perform is currently Beethoven, since his second horn parts are always fun and challenging.

What is the best part about being a musician in the Kansas City Symphony?

The best part of being a Kansas City Symphony musician is that every day I get to get up and go to a job I love with all of the wonderful musicians in the orchestra. I especially love playing with my fantastic colleagues in the horn section.

What's your "top pick" for downtown dining, or for a post-concert drink or dessert?

After a concert, you'll probably find me socializing with some of the other young people in the symphony at either Grinders or Westside Local.

Tell us about your family and your hobbies.

My parents live in Atlanta, where my dad works in the insurance industry and my mom has just recently retired from teaching middle school band. They are currently planning to build a house and retire in South Carolina with our Welsh Terrier (or Terror), Sherlock. I have one older brother who graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in Hospitality Management and is currently working for Marriott in their management program. In my free time here, I like to cook, read, hang out with my friends, and go running in Loose Park.