Susan LaFever, a pianist and an acclaimed French horn performer, has played extensively in the U.S. and abroad as a recitalist and as a chamber and orchestral musician. She has received highest praise for her musicianship, her playing being praised for its lyricism, consistency, and ability to generate excitement.
LaFever gave her first public performance when she played a violin solo on television at age six. When she began study on horn six years later, she had already been playing violin in the Southeast Iowa Youth Orchestra for several years. By the end of her first year of study on the horn she performed the first movement of Mozart’s first horn concerto at a local youth concert and was awarded a full scholarship to the Northeast Missouri State band camp.
She entered yearly music educators' solo competitions and was awarded the highest possible score six years running. She won a position with the Quincy, Illinois, Symphony Orchestra, a highly regarded amateur orchestra, in which she played rotating positions for three years before college.
Besides other honor bands and orchestras, LaFever entered state-wide auditions as a high school freshman and won the fourth horn position in the Ames, Iowa, Festival Orchestra, a key ensemble in a prestigious annual festival held in that city. The following year, she played first horn in the All-State Orchestra, and two years later, in her senior year, she performed a recital which featured the challenging first movement of Richard Strauss’ Horn concerto No. 2 in Eb Major, along with other works for horn.
During her college years at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, LaFever played yearly recitals and continued to win in solo competitions. After her freshman recital, she was given upper division standing in horn and received college credit at that level until her graduation from UC in 1986. She also played horn in the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra while residing in Lincoln and completing an M.Mus. at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
LaFever appeared as a soloist with the Lincoln Civic Orchestra and subsequently won competitions to appear with both the Rutgers University Orchestra and the South Orange Symphony Orchestra in New Jersey. A solo performance with the Bergen Youth Orchestra led to an invitation for her to return.
As a brass chamber music performer, she was a scholarship recipient to an Empire Brass Seminar at the Tanglewood Festival in Massachusetts. Her brass quintet won the competition in that seminar and then played in the primary performance area of that festival.
She has played with a number of ensembles in celebrated New York venues, including the Amphion Woodwind Quintet at Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall, Polished Brass in Merkin Hall, and Prometheus Brass at Avery Fisher Hall. Other New York experiences have included serving as co-principal horn with the International Tour of Porgy & Bess, spending two weeks of that tour playing in the largest hall in Tokyo. She has also served as a substitute horn in the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera, as well as in orchestras on Broadway in productions of The Lion King, The Sound of Music, and Cats.
LaFever has given numerous recitals in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. She has given recitals as well as master classes at the Fieldston School in the Bronx and at Queens College, her playing in the latter being praised for its "musical and note-perfect performance." She has also toured extensively in the Midwest, giving both recitals and master classes at a number of universities, including the University of Iowa, Western Illinois University, and the University of California, Santa Barbara.
She performed at the 2006, '08, and '10 Northeast Horn Workshops and at the International Horn Symposium in 2012. In May 2010 she played the world premiere of Carol Worthy's Romanza for Horn.
LaFever appeared live at the US Open with Idina Menzel, star of Broadway’s Wicked; with Il Divo, pop/classical male vocal group; and on CBS as part of the musical opening the 2005 Women’s Tennis Finals at center court. She has also been heard live on WAMC’s Performance Place hosted by Paul Elisha in Albany, New York, and on national TV in Mexico City.
LaFever is principal horn of the Doansburg Chamber Ensemble. She formerly played fourth horn in the New Jersey Opera Festival and is currently third horn with the Greater Bridgeport Symphony in Connecticut, a position she has held since 1999. She has performed as principal horn with festival groups in Royal Albert Hall in London and at Fontainebleau Castle in France.
Lafever earned a Performance Certificate at the Manhattan School of Music, where she studied with David Jolley. She is presently a Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers University.
Sources: Information provided by Susan LaFever (2012); Biographies at Susan LaFever website (susanlafever.com) and hornnewengland.org; Union College (Lincoln, NE), alumni magazine, Cordmagazine, Summer 2006 and earlier unknown date; Other online sources.