Phil Henson

From: Fort Worth, TX & Richland, MO

Age: 35

Instrument: French Horn

Job Title: Freelance Recorder, Intern Coordinator for the Gluck Fellows Program

Favorite Beverage: Black Forest Ice Blended No Whip, or Black Coffee

"Life has certainly been a struggle. Coming back to music in an academic environment, after taking time off is a VERY big struggle. You are behind the curve in so many ways. In my case, returning the 3rd time, I was 28 or 29, and dealing with a studio full of Texas 18 and 19 year olds who were playing the fire out of the horn, and I hadn’t played for literally 6 years. That was frustrating, in remembering what I could do versus what I could do then, and dealing with being a mentor and a subordinate to those students in terms of life experience and playing experience. It was constantly a struggle to find hope and inspiration that someday I would return to a level of playing that was familiar. I don’t know that I have ever reached a comfort level that I had prior to leaving music, but I think I get better day by day, which is all we can ask for. I was also working full time around 40-50 hours a week and taking a 20 hour course load to get through school, and being in ensembles and coaching ensembles and doing all of that. So, the struggle of just balancing time and making time for myself and staying committed to it and staying passionate about it at this time in my life so that it didn’t get away from me again is probably the biggest musical struggle that I’ve faced.

But, my life experiences are very different than my musical experiences. Like I had mentioned, the very young passing of my mom when I was 18 was completely unexpected and greatly impacted me. I had a lot of friends who were military service who I knew closely who were casualties of war. I had a couple of really good friends who were casualties by their own hand after war, and one that I witnessed personally. So that was sort of the traumatic experience that led me to my box on the sidewalk. I had to figure out how to re-frame my life and understand that. It’s always hard to lose a friend, but it’s even harder to watch a friend do that to themselves and see it first hand. That experience really messed with me. That was in the midst of a period when I was not involved with music so music was merely the enjoyment and comfort factor. I didn’t have much to work with, in terms of possession or anything at that time, I just had a couple of CDs with me and a very bad discman. I got a couple of dollars every day, but I just bought new batteries for my discman. I never bought food because then I got to listen to music. Life after that has been pretty good. I think I learned from that experience that that is the absolute rock bottom of life. It was a pretty incredible experience and I think I learned that overcoming that means overcoming anything in life, regardless of what it is. It doesn’t take the place of anxieties in life, but it takes the place of knowing that even if things got to the point where it was that bad again I know how to get out. That is an experience that can’t be taught, it just has to be learned, and it’s an experience that I hope no one else I know ever has to go through. But, if I know them, they will never have to go through that. I would never let someone go through that."

Advice to other musicians"I would say that the biggest thing that you have to have to be successful is a clear understanding of why you want to do it. It’s one thing to say that you want to be a musician, but it is a completely different ballgame to have a completely self driven purpose of why you want to. A paycheck is not enough. My grandfather always had a saying, and I’ll sanitize it, that, ‘I’d rather be knee deep in manure every day then have clean boots and no purpose’. That is so true. That is true in music, but it’s so true in life that if you wake up every day and you have no purpose, then how are you living. You just have to have to have a purpose as to why music is a part of your life and why you want to share it. Without it, it’s just as meaningless as going to the grocery store and it becomes a task and not a profession, a passion or a desire. As for finding that inspiration, good luck. It comes in so many forms and from so many places and so many people are an influence on it or a detriment to it, it just all has to come from within. It has to come from that place in your soul where you wake up every morning thinking about it you miss it or the feeling that it gives you or others."

Quote/Mantra"I would say that to sum up my attitude towards life, my attitude towards music and my hope for others comes from another saying: ‘life is not about living forever, but making the most of the journey.’ So, I hope everyone finds a way to make that journey the most fruitful, enjoyable, inspired and engaged journey as it can be. Hopefully that’s through music, but if they discover in life that it is not the case with music, that they find the pathway that does lead them to that."

Cause/Charity: Wounded Warrior Project

Do you think inspiration is crucial to being successful?"I don’t believe you can truly be successful unless you are inspired. Your inspiration can be self driven, but hopefully it is not self serving, especially not in the art of music. I think inspiration and the inspiration to engage your craft with others, as a performer, can be true inspiration and that’s success. It can be the worst performance of your life, but if it’s driven with an absolute pure desire to share your self inspiration to inspire others, it’s the greatest benefit to our field that there can possibly be. I think the two are married together as strongly as possible."