Early valved hornA History of Horn Articles Online

By John Ericson

In early 2008 I was visiting the great Douglas Yeo trombone website and noted an article, “Happy Birthday: A Look Back at 10 Years of Internet Presence,” about the history of his site. Yeodoug.com is more than two years older than Horn Articles Online; it went live in February, 1996. His article gave me the thought that my readers might also be interested in this same topic on the tenth anniversary of Horn Articles Online.

His article is set up in the form of questions and answers, and I will use the same seven questions he used (only slightly modified) as a starting point to reflect on the history of Horn Articles Online.

Early Valved Horn1. Whose idea was it for you to have a website?

In early 1998 I first acquired a PC powerful enough to run a browser on it. Prior to that I had only had E-mail access (and that only for a bit more than two years). At the time I was Third Horn in the Nashville Symphony and was enthusiastic about horn history, having recently completed a very substantial dissertation about the valved horn in early 19th century Germany and also several related articles for The Horn Call. The idea came to me that these materials could be worked into a website.

So while in part I made the site because I had an idea and materials to post, that still really does not say why I first built the site. The answer to that question gets into my motivations for doing things. It was a topic which I had thought over a lot the previous few years, after the birth of my son who has Down Syndrome. I could have reacted to that major life event several ways, but for me it reinforced a belief that God puts all of us in unique places and gives us unique opportunities. I knew that I had distinctive materials and experiences and was in a position to create a web site of this type, one that could make a positive impact. Exactly how distinctive has become clear over the years, as I know of no other site like Horn Articles Online.

Initially I was thinking about a website before I was hired at SUNY Potsdam, and after I was hired I decided to set it up as a studio website.

John Ericson2. How, then, did your site get set up?

I started working out the layout in WordPerfect actually, the same program I had used for my dissertation, making charts and dividing up materials from my published articles and my dissertation to flow better on the Internet as sort of an “online book.” The hardest thing is always organization of content.

That spring I also interviewed and won the position of Assistant Professor of Horn at the Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam. I contacted the person who did their website and he told me that SUNY Potsdam was well set up to host a faculty website such as I envisioned and that he used a Claris product to build theirs. So I purchased the same software and figured out how to use it to set up the first version of the site. You can actually still access the current site from the original location, http://www2.potsdam.edu/CRANE/ericsojq/articles_online.htm, as there is a re-direct in place. The current “real” location is http://www.public.asu.edu/~jqerics/articles_online.htm and it may be accessed from www.hornarticles.com as well.

This photo is from a very early version of the site (taken when I was a DMA student) and the others in this article are vintage photos also from earlier versions of the website. The other photos (documenting my hair loss) date to 1999, 2000, and 2007. The first two show me with horns I no longer own, the Yamaha 667 that I won the Third Horn audition in Nashville playing and also a 500,000 series 8D I used for long while as well. For more on what I play now see this article.

3. Who designed your website?

I did all the design from the ground up, and on a design level Horn Articles Online has remained a fairly simple HTML based site with the hope that horn players anywhere on basically any computer can read it easily. Good horn players are a little stubborn; there are a lot of easier things to do than play horn. Basically I have taken an attitude that if others can figure out how to build a website I can figure out how to do it too. I developed my own initial template which has been tweaked repeatedly since.

John Ericson 19994. What did your website look like at its beginning?

It had a similar look from 1998-2010. The opening page had a version of an image of an early valved horn (for many years the one at the beginning of this article) and down in the site the “next article” header has always been there to aid navigation around. Memory says that the very first version was on a light gray background, but it was changed to white fairly quickly.

When the articles part of the site was conceived it really focused only on horn history as being just a portion of a studio website. Horn Articles Online sort of took on a life of its own though. I divided the content and look of different parts of the site for a while, but more recently I have gone back to a more unified style that puts things back inside a studio website format. I am always pondering ways to redesign the site.

5. Why did you name your website Horn Articles Online?

Actually, I first called the site a more generic name, “Articles Online.” Thank Bruce Hembd for the name Horn Articles Online, as this is how he linked it from the IHS website not long after I launched the site. I saw the link and said something like, “hmmm, this is a better name,” and adopted it.

6. When did Horn Articles Online go public?

Sometime in August of 1998, in a very busy period right before school started for me my first semester at Crane. With having just moved 1000 miles and a new job and two small children I don’t think it occurred to me to note the actual date. I added the first WebCounter stats almost a year after the site was launched.

7. What has happened to Horn Articles Online in the last 10 years?

I moved on from Claris to FrontPage and now Dreamweaver to build the site, so the look has gradually improved. Very early on it was mostly a horn history site. Then, with my teaching at Crane and later ASU, quite a few teaching materials came online, including most of my notes for techniques and methods classes. It has further changed in recent years as I …

John Ericson 2000*cut most of the unpublished materials. This was done in part due to the “you can put anything on the Internet” mentality that is out there (for good reason). Articles that had already risen to the level of publications have more impact and give more credibility to the site. (The unpublished, cut materials are coming back in various forms--for example, the old articles on mellophone, descant horn, and Wagner tuba were expanded into books).

*stopped posting on discussion groups. Among other reasons it just took too much time that I could use more productively elsewhere.

*developed content that eventually was migrated to Horn Matters. This I have enjoyed, it is a much better forum for my thoughts than the discussion groups. Also the writings have more impact as they come up in searches.

*and now have released several print publications through Horn Notes Edition.

Thank you for visiting Horn Articles Online. Your continued support for this Classic site is appreciated and is why I keep it going.

John Ericson 2007What is the future? Douglas Yeo has another article relating to this topic in his site, “What Happened to the Internet?” where he delves into the topic rather deeply. Some of his thoughts I do certainly share. On the whole I remain an optimist; I believe that there will always be a place for "good news" content of the type featured here in Horn Articles Online and at Horn Matters.

Websites come and websites go. Some of the original, important horn websites are actually completely gone. Ultimately I think in terms of long term impact that there still is a place for quality print or E-book publications, of which not nearly enough have come out in recent years relating to the horn. That is why I launched Horn Notes Edition. I very much hope to positively impact the number of horn players and the quality of horn playing worldwide through these publications.

Above all on a personal level in the coming years I will certainly keep thinking about how to best use the unique talents and opportunities that God has given me to serve not only my family and students but also the horn teaching and playing community.

Article updated 2011

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