Meet the Musician: Hornist Wei-Ping Chou

Photography by Danielle Cho

Where are you from originally? When did you move to the US?

I grew up in Tao-Yuan, Taiwan, and moved to US to attend Idyllwild Arts Academy as a freshman in high school.

Where did you do your musical studies?

After Idyllwild Arts Academy, I attended the Manhattan School of Music for my bachelor’s degree studying with Jerome Ashby, and continued my graduate studies (master’s and artist diploma) at the Juilliard School with Julie Landsman.

What made you choose the French horn?

My mom (who is a piano and music teacher) picked for me when I was in third grade. I was in a special music program where every student was required to play the piano and another orchestral instrument.

She thought that string instruments were too expensive, and that they required too much maintenance. She also didn’t want me to worry about reed making, so woodwinds were out. (Meanwhile, too many people played the flute already.) She thought tuba and trombone were too big for me and trumpets are too loud. With the process of elimination, she chose horn! She believed it was cost-effective, weatherproofed, and kid-friendly. I thank her decision to this day!

How many auditions have you taken? Can you give us a little background on your audition history?

I stopped really counting at one point. Mostly because the number got huge, and I didn’t want that number to discourage me from working toward my dream.

I have been taking auditions since my second year in college, and I wasn’t one of those players who won them early on. But l kept going. I have been in the finals for bigger orchestras like LA Phil, but have been rejected plenty of times in first rounds by many others also.

Do you have any advice for musicians who are planning to take auditions?

Don’t give up if this is what you really want! I didn’t win my job right out of school, and I have taken 50+ auditions. I have always wanted to be in an orchestra, and I knew it required lots of practicing, passion, persistence, determination, and a little bit luck to get there. When I say "luck", I don’t mean just pure luck, but that you need to perform well on the day of the audition, and to also have similar musical ideas and sound concepts as that specific committee/orchestra.

I like to compare taking orchestra auditions with playing the video game “Mario Kart”.
When I was at Tanglewood Music Center, my roommate had a game cube in our dorm room, and we would play Mario Kart. I wasn’t very good at it, and when you are not good at something, it’s just not fun. I was determined to be better, so I spent three hours a day practicing on it. (Determination and practicing for the auditions!) I started practicing as a solo driver, but I was so bad at it, I couldn’t see any improvement, so I would write down the time for each lap; whenever I got faster, I’d erase the previous time, and write down a new one. (Recording and writing down notes.) When you start to see (hear) improvements, you start to get encouraged. (gaining confidence) Once I learned all the tracks well, I started to add in computer players. (Learned all your music, and time for live rounds!) Lots of things could happen when you add in the unknown-you could be leading and get hit my a turtle shell and fall off a track. (playing well, and a distraction happened, and you made a huge mistake). But you stay calm: knowing you did all the preparations you possibly could, and you knew the track (music) inside out. You collect yourself and keep going. Or you started to get excited right before the finish line, because it’s going so well, and that’s when mistakes happen, and that’s another reminder: it’s not over until it’s over.

In addition to playing with our orchestra, you also play with a few other ensembles. Can you tell us a bit about what it’s like working with Orpheus and Marlboro?

Playing with amazing musicians in a chamber music setting is one of the most uplifting experiences for me. They are collaborative experiences with inspiring fellow musicians where we feed off of each other’s energy. They motivate and encourage me to be the best musician that I can be. I feel very fortunate to experience this magical feeling of camaraderie during each and every thrilling performance with these outside groups.

What do you like to do outside of French Horn?

Since 2014, I have been trying/learning/doing something new each month, and from there I have found my new passion outside of music: flying trapeze! I fly on a regular bases and loving every minute of it. It’s everything I never thought I could possibly do. Other than that, I also have a great appreciation toward good eats, and therefore I cook and bake quite a bit. I like to keep a creative mind when possible, so I also knit and make earrings!