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Tom Spillman, Horn player
Tom is a retired Assistant Professor of St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas, U.S.A. He currently plays french horn in a community band. Tom and his wife JoAnn also enjoy sailing, and took a trip together from Hull on the Northeast coast of England, down the English coast, through the English Channel, across the Bay of Biscay to Lisbon and then on to the Canaries. Tom did most of the navigation on the trip (without a GPS unit), and found that his prior experience in the navy came in handy.

The following is Tom in his own words.

"First, a little personal history. I played horn in a number of musical organizations when I was still a young man. I played in marching bands, concert bands, orchestras, and in the pit for musicals. Later, after I joined the Navy, I played in a number of Navy bands (not the Navy band!). I was deployed overseas with my squadron. The Korean War was going on and we were called upon to provide support. I flew over thirty five patrol missions as part of the crew on Navy Patrol bombers.

While we were there, we lost three aircraft and fifteen men. I received a few minor awards, and while we were deployed longer than John Kerry, we did not consider ourselves "heroes", we were just a bunch of guys doing our jobs. Upon my discharge, I started back to the first of what turned out to be many universities. I started a career, got married, and started raising a family. I seldom thought of the horn, since it is seldom used as a solo instrument by itself.

In the years that passed, I often mentioned to my wife JoAnn (at left) how much I had enjoyed playing a part in a band or orchestra. She often encouraged me to take up the horn again, but I was traveling about 70% of the time and actively involved in raising our family. Finally, a bit over four years ago, after my retirement, I finally bought a used horn, found a teacher and started studying again. I had a ball!

One of my neighbors played in a local community band. I had never heard of the community band concept, but it sounded interesting. When I felt I had reached the level of ability that would allow me to play, I joined the same band, Band of the Hills.

Here is our band playing at a community music festival in Austin , TX in spring 2007 (we play there again this year, 2008). I am the grey haired guy on the left of the four horn players:

I have enjoyed it thoroughly. I had been working with computers since 1963 and thought there should be some software that would help me. After several missteps, I found Notation Composer and I have found it to be invaluable to me.

I scan my music for the band when I get it and also manually enter etudes and the like assigned by my horn teacher.. I also found some music scanning software that does a fair job of reading music and converting to to a midi format. I read it into Composer and then have it available for learning and practicing. There is a host of music available on the web. For example, I found Classical Music Archives which has a huge quantity of music available.

I down loaded a bunch of music from them. I have all of the symphonies of Beethoven and Mozart, for example I also have Mozart's four horn concerti. I can listen to them to study or just play them for enjoyment in Composer.

I upgraded the sound card in my computer to utilize sound fonts and went through a search on the web for free sound fonts which I downloaded to improve the sound of the midi instruments.

Many still are not quite right, but they are better than it was!

I would like to get Garritan's Personal Orchestra, but I decided I wouldn't use it enough to justify the cost.

I have now advanced to third horn (up from fourth!) and I credit Notation Composer for helping me. It is my music stand, my practice aid and, to me, an invaluable aid to music study."