Johnny Thirkell : Horn Camp 2020

Last year we spoke to Johnny Thirkell about his new venture “Horn Camp” – a week-long course in Southern Spain for Trumpet and Sax players. It all sounded pretty exciting, so we caught up with him again to see how it all went and if he had plans for more.

So, Johnny. How was Horn Camp 2019? Would you say it was a success?

Absolutely. We couldn’t have wished for a better start.  At the beginning, these things can be something of a risk and a worry. Will we get the balance right? Will the students all get along living together? How will we cope with varying standards etc. But it seems we needn’t have worried too much as the feedback was beyond amazing and very, very satisfying. Did we get everything right? Probably not. I’ll spend a bit more time on individual tuition rather than group classes this time, but overall everyone left very happy and vowing to come back.

Wow. So, can we presume you’ll be doing it again in 2020?

Oh, for sure. In fact, all but two of the 2019 students immediately booked for Horn Camp 2020 when we announced it so we must have done something right first time around.

Does this mean that Horn Camp 2020 is full already?

No, not at all. With the first week selling out almost immediately, we decided to risk doing a second week. And, waddya know, that pretty much sold out straight away too. So, flush with our success we added a third week for good measure. That’s definitely it for 2020, though! Three one-week courses – two in May and one at the end of August and there are a couple of Trumpet places left.

So, for those who don’t know what it is, tell us a little bit about it.

Horn Camp involves a group of Trumpet players getting away from the day to day distractions of home to spend a week working on their playing in the glorious sunshine of Spain’s Sierra Nevada mountains. We all stay together in the house so there’s plenty of time to play, practice and talk trumpet together while Laura, the housekeeper, takes care of the cooking! 

I’ve always found the traditional 1 hour a week teaching model to be quite limiting insofar as there is only so much you can convey in an hour and often, by the time the student has gone home and gets around to practicing, he/she may well have forgotten some of the teachings and you, the teacher, are not there to answer any questions. Also, in a one-hour lesson it’s very difficult to fit in some of the peripheral disciplines which can be hugely beneficial to wind players – things like breathing exercises, posture, stress management and mental well-being. So, by running the camp we allow students to put a week aside to focus on all of these things while we, the teachers are available all day long to answer any questions and provide help and guidance. Plus, it’s great fun too!!

Aside from a great environment where we all work together, we will look at a more rounded approach to playing your instrument. Not just technique on the instrument but also the things you can do without the instrument to improve your playing and musicianship. There’ll be modules on Pilates for Wind players, techniques for maximising your practice time, Breathing exercises, anxiety management and lots more. Plus, after dinner there will be the opportunity to talk about a broader range of things – like how publishing works, copyright protection or brass arranging – or simply to answer any questions the students might have.

And how do you cope with players of differing standards?

Well, teaching is a mix of individual and group sessions so we can cover all standards. In addition, as there is a fair bit of focus on fundamentals such as breath control, expression and musicality as well as the ‘off-instrument’ disciplines, the studies are relevant to players of a wide range of abilities anyway. In fact, I see it as a plus to have a range of abilities as it winds up with everyone helping each other. We always ask students to leave their competitiveness at the gate and enter into an atmosphere of mutual trust and support. That way we will all take away the maximum from the week and no-one need feel awkward or out of their depth. Having said that, you will need to be able to play – but I would say that so long as you play to a reasonable level, you will fit in and benefit greatly from the course.  

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So, what’s included in the price?

The fee includes all tuition plus resources – worksheets and music – breakfast, lunch and evening meal every day and all beer, wine and soft drinks for the duration. We will collect students from Malaga Airport and drop them back at the end of the week and there are double and twin rooms available and non-playing partners are welcome.

The dates are:  3rd-9th May (1 Trumpet place left) 

10th-16th May (Sold Out) 

30th Aug- 5th Sept (2 Trumpet places left)

And details can be found here:


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