Spotlight on Alison Dresser

Alison Dresser, our newly appointed third horn player, joins us after playing a one-year contract for the 2018-19 season. Originally from Ashland, Oregon, she studied at Northwestern University and the Curtis Institute before joining us on a temporary basis.

Now that she’s here permanently, we chatted with Alison to see what excites her:

How did you come to start playing French Horn?

My first instrument was piano, but I also started playing cello shortly after. I kept playing both through high school, but I started horn at 10, because I wanted to play an instrument in middle school band. My dad plays trumpet, so I grew up going to orchestra concerts, and I was always drawn to the horn because of the different tone colors it has and the way composers write for it. I also loved how it could easily fit into both the brass and woodwind sections.

Do you have a favorite piece of music?

It’s hard to choose just one! The Brahms symphonies are definitely in the top for me. There are always great horn parts and I just love the great Brahms melodies. I’m very excited to play Mahler’s Fifth Symphony later this season as well. As a brass player, I think you’ve gotta have Mahler in your top ten! 

Wow, so you must have loved last year’s Brahms cycle!

It was a wonderful experience to perform all four Brahms symphonies with the ISO last year. As I mentioned, they are some of my favorite pieces, but this was the first time I got to play them in a professional orchestra. These performances definitely hold a special place in my heart.

The performances of the Fourth Symphony were particularly meaningful because they took place during my trial week before officially becoming third horn with the ISO, and Brahms third horn parts are known to be some of the best in the symphonic literature. 

What’s something we might not know about you?

I ran cross country and track in middle school and high school, and I was awful at it. I always placed at the bottom in meets. The past couple years, I’ve gotten back into running after a long time off, and in July I completed a half-marathon!