A Tribute to Hornist Kendall Betts
Written by Hazel Dean Davis, current UNH Horn Faculty Member
It is a great honor to take over the UNH horn studio from my teacher Kendall Betts. Kendall taught me during my formative high school years. His tough-love teaching along with his notoriously rigorous method laid the foundation for my professional career and everything I have accomplished on horn. Lessons with Kendall were not the usual: he sat on his lounge chair, never taking his horn out, chain smoking and sometimes sipping a cocktail while he tore me to shreds. We spent three years together and 95% of that time was spent on a half-dozen etudes and long tones. Kendall taught me to be disciplined and to demand excellence. When I went back and played for him at the end of college his simple words “you’ll be ok, Hazel” told me that he finally heard potential and, coming from him, was the greatest compliment.
Kendall was indeed a task-master, but he also had another side. In fact he had an alter-ego: Professor I.M. Gestopftmitscheist. Dressed in fake glasses and moustache, Kendall would present hilarious comedy skits. At his camp in New Hampshire, which I attended for 3 summers, students and faculty alike would spend many an evening literally rolling on the ground in fits of uncontrollable laughter. Kendall was a great story teller and given that he lived his life never missing an opportunity to state his mind, play a trick, or have fun, he amassed fantastic story material. Many of Kendall’s stories have become legend in the horn world and I frequently find myself repeating them to my own students.
Kendall started horn at age 11 and went to the Interlochen Arts Academy and then the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music. He won a job in the horn section of the Philadelphia Orchestra in his first year out of college, making him one of the youngest members ever in that orchestra. After 5 years he left to pursue a freelance career and played as guest soloist and principal horn throughout the world and in Hollywood. In 1974 he won principal horn in the Minnesota Orchestra where he played until his retirement in 2004. After his retirement he moved to New Hampshire where he had already established the North Country Chamber Players and his famous Kendall Betts Horn Camp. He also started teaching at UNH.
It was a shock to everyone when Kendall was diagnosed with late stage lung cancer last summer and was gone within a few weeks. Having recently moved to New England, I had been looking forward to working together with Kendall as colleagues and am deeply saddened that we won’t have this opportunity. But I am forever grateful for all he taught me and will do my best to carry on his work at UNH.
Kendall Betts was a resident artist at the University of New Hampshire. He passed away on August 16, 2016.