Backstage: Brett Hodge

Thursday, October 21

Get to know the musicians of the Omaha Symphony from backstage.

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Not up close but still personal: Brett Hodge

Meet the fearless leader of the Omaha Symphony horn section, Brett Hodge. Brett has been with the orchestra since he won his position in 2016, and has since been not only an important member of the brass section but a friendly face and welcoming presence to colleagues, patrons, donors, and everyone he meets. His colleagues say that listening to him and the rest of the horn section is one of the highlights of playing with the Omaha Symphony—"it sounds exactly like what you'd hope for," says Omaha Symphony bassist Dani Meier.

He's also got plenty of recommendations and good advice if you're looking for it. One example of such advice?

"If you’re looking to live a more musical life, don’t be afraid to push the boundaries and explore different genres. You might find something you like that’s been right in front of you forever! Also, listen for fulfillment. If your heart feels full listening to it, you’re listening to the right thing."

We talked with Brett backstage (and in the house, and in the lobby!) at the Holland Center recently. Get to know the person behind the heroic horn solos you love!

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Where are you from originally?

I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and barely received a Bachelor’s degree from
The University of Missouri-Kansas City!

How long have you been with the Omaha Symphony?

I won the audition for Principal Horn in the summer of 2016, but I was a regular substitute with the symphony for the two years prior!

How did you choose your instrument?

Funny story, I didn’t actually choose to play the horn. Growing up, both of my parents were band directors, and I had been playing piano since I was seven. When it came time to start band, they brought home a horn, and I opened it and looked at it funny because it wasn’t the bell kit and snare drum that I wanted to play…. Needless to say, I grew into the horn!

What’s your favorite thing about being a professional musician?

My favorite thing about being a musician is probably the lack of a mundane routine. Sure, I have the things that I do every day to stay in shape, but I don’t have the same 9-5 job that everyone else has. I enjoy working evenings, weekends, at 9 a.m., and whenever else we have performances! Every day is different!

What's something people might not know about being a professional musician?

People think that being a professional musician is just a hobby. To be at a consistent level and maintain the skills required to do the job, you have to almost train like an athlete. Not that I know anything about being a professional athlete!

If you could choose another instrument in the orchestra instead of the one you play, which would it be?

I'd have to say the cello, because it has a similar range and tone color to the horn!

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What's your favorite thing about Omaha?

Omaha has such a wide variety of people and cultures. As a musician, you get to know many different people from all different backgrounds!

What's your favorite Omaha restaurant?

I’d have to say it’s a hard choice between Blue (happy hour sushi and drinks speak to my soul) and Gorat’s (whiskey marinated steak…sorry vegetarians.)

What do you like to do when you're not playing music?

When I’m not working or practicing, you can find my wife and me riding many of the local bike trails, driving an infinite amount of hours to go do an insane hike starting at 3 a.m., or spending time with my daughter.

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If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing for a career?

If I had to re-do life all over again, I would definitely learn to enjoy the outdoors more. I think I’d have to be a park ranger or someone who is constantly outside, even though I burn when I'm in the sun for more than five minutes!

Do you have any party tricks?

No tricks, but I make a great party by over-feeding everyone!

What's something about you that surprises people?

Besides my atrocious handwriting? I’d have to say that I’m pretty friendly, despite it looking like I'm staring right through your soul without a smile in pictures!

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What would you tell someone who has never been to the symphony but is interested in attending a performance?

Start with something light! If you didn't grow up with classical music, attend a rocks, pops, or family concert. There's something for everyone at the Symphony!

What advice would you give someone looking to live a more musical life?

If you're looking to live a more musical life, don't be afraid to push the boundaries and explore different genres. You might find something you like that's been right in front of you forever! Also, listen for fulfillment. If your heart feels full when listening to it, you're listening to the right thing.

What do you wish you had known as a student?

As a student, I wish I would’ve understood that one bump in the road doesn’t mean your career is over. I was really hard on myself and took every little mistake and failure to heart, but that most likely shaped who I am today.

What's the best piece of advice (musical or otherwise) you've ever received?

Musical advice: “It’s just about the singing.” As a musician who is not a vocalist, my instrument is an extension of the human voice. If I’m not thinking like a singer, then I’m not actively making music.

Life advice: “You’re always going to have to deal with things you don’t want to. Someday you’re just going to be doing the same thing, but you’ll be older.” This really resonated with me. A former teacher of mine told me this and it was a game-changer. You never know when life can change in an instant, so don’t sweat the small stuff.

What are your top three desert island pieces?

At first I thought this was question was about "dessert pieces" and instantly thought of Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies, but I don’t want to bring that piece to a desert. I’d have to say, Mahler’s 9th Symphony, Beethoven’s 7th symphony, and “September” by Earth Wind and Fire.

What piece made you fall in love with classical music?

Claude Debussy’s Arabesque No. 1 for solo piano. If you’re having a bad day, listen to this. The rich colors and sonorous lines will turn that frown upside down!

Catch Brett and the rest of the musicians of the Omaha Symphony as part of our bold 2021-22 season—explore the music here.

Meet the rest of the orchestra here.

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