French Horn player Russell Strandtmann

Arts profile

Posted: Thursday, May 18, 2000

Hooked by Wagner: Russell Strandtmann plays French horn with the symphony and the Juneau Marching Band, alto horn with Dale Wygant's Polka Band and recorder with the Juneau Folk Ensemble. He also plays the button accordion.

Strandtmann, 62, grew up in Texas. He had an experience his second year playing horn that hooked him for life, he said.

``I was playing in a big brass band in high school in Lubbock. One day the band director passed out this music to ``Ziegfried's Rhine Journey.'' I had heard about this Ziegfried fellow, from reading books on mythology, but I had no idea who Richard Wagner was. We played through and hit those passages where the French horn section really shines, and I thought I would just burst from excitement,'' he said.

More than 40 years later, he's still hooked on the French horn.

``It has its own special tone quality. No other brass instrument can sound like it. It has a very broad range, from low notes to high notes,'' he said.

Musical daughter: Strandtmann said about 18 years ago his daughter Amy also picked up the French horn. A year later she started taking lessons from Juneau brass teacher Bill Paulick and she was hooked as well. Now they both play with the symphony -- as does Paulick.

Although Strandtmann has been with the symphony 18 years now, he first played with the group in 1971 under the direction of symphony founder Cliff Berge.

Lubbock to Juneau: After growing up in Lubbock and Galveston, Texas, Strandtmann moved to Fairbanks in 1962. He was there nine years, spent a year in Juneau, then left Alaska for San Diego. He missed Juneau, he said, and returned with his family in 1982.

Strandtmann worked as a computer programmer for the state Department of Transportation and retired two years ago.

Rare instrument: Strandtmann plays alto horn with the polka band. The instrument looks like a little upright tuba but plays in the same range as French horn.

``They're interchangeable with a French horn in a marching band, but no where else. You see them in Salvation Army bands and polka bands, but they're pretty much obsolete now. You just don't see them very much anymore,'' he said.

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