Backstage: Garrett Law

Thursday, February 25

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

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Not up close but still personal: Garrett Law, Horn

Welcome to our blog series, Backstage—in each installment, we feature a different Omaha Symphony musician as they chat with us about their musical lives, how they got here, their insights on musicianship, and lots more.

This week, we caught up with Garrett Law, Omaha Symphony Fourth Horn. Garrett has been holding down the low horn with the symphony for four years now—he talked about what it's really like to be a professional orchestral musician, what he loves about Omaha, and gave some excellent advice for first-time symphony-goers.

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Where are you from originally?

A small town in Arkansas called Stuttgart. If you've ever bought Riceland Rice at the grocery store, it's from my hometown.

How did you choose your instrument?

I started off playing trumpet but found it kind of boring at the time (no offense to my friends in the trumpet section) and I thought the horn looked pretty and switched a year into band class.

What’s your favorite thing about being a musician?

Live music allows the performers and the audience to experience a lot of feelings in a way that's hard to access in other ways in life. It's a powerful experience that's hard to replicate just listening to a recording.

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

Often when I talk to people not familiar with how orchestras work behind the scenes, they seem surprised that we aren't rehearsing regularly all the time to prepare for concerts like you do in high school band or a college club or something. We at most have probably four rehearsals for a program, sometimes only one!

The job requires a lot of individual work and preparation to be ready to execute everything well and consistently minute one of a rehearsal for a given program. Some of this involves practicing and “woodshedding” (slow, meticulous practice of difficult passages) our parts at home, but it also requires some studying, looking at scores, and listening to multiple recordings of pieces to know how the piece goes and how our individual part fits into the whole.

We also all have work we have to do to stay in shape regularly. As a brass player especially, I have to play a certain amount to keep my muscles in shape or I lose them. The less I "have work," the more I have to work ironically! If we have two weeks off at the holidays after our Christmas shows for example, I could treat those days as vacation and not touch my horn, but once we are back at work I'll be in a lot of trouble being able to use my skills at the level that is needed and could really injure myself so I can't neglect the horn during "time off."

What’s your favorite thing about Omaha?

The zoo. I tell friends often a visit is worth it for the zoo alone!

What’s your favorite Omaha restaurant?

Block 16!

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

I enjoy reading, podcasts, tv, hiking, video games, board games, and splitting my time between Omaha and Washington, D.C. with my partner Doug (who plays trombone professionally for the Kennedy Center Opera/Ballet Orchestra) and our 15 year old orange tabby cat named Duck.

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

Bassoon, but I would be so bad at making reeds.

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

Probably something in the helping profession, counseling/social work.

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

Just try something. Unless you hate music altogether there is something that you will enjoy! A Rocks/Pops/Movie show could be a good place to start, then I would encourage you to not be afraid to give something "classical" a chance. I can empathize with attending an all-Mozart program not being everyone's cup of tea, but our Masterworks/Joslyn programs are likely so much different than what your expectation might be thinking about attending an orchestra concert. Listen to some of the pieces planned for an upcoming program on YouTube – if it seems pretty or exciting at all it will be even prettier and more exciting in person.

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

Sing! Take piano lessons! Play recorder! People seem to think they need a certain aptitude or need to be a certain young age to learn music but in the end, enjoying a hobby shouldn't require a skill-level barrier.

What are your top three desert island pieces?

Bach Brandenburg Concerti, Mahler 4, Puccini's Tosca

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Catch Garrett and the rest of the musicians of the Omaha Symphony this spring—check out our full spring 2021 line-up here. Tickets are on sale now!

Meet the rest of the orchestra here.

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