Welcome to the IHCA
(March 13, 1941 - September 23, 2014)
It is with sadness that the International Horn Competition of America (IHCA) notes the passing of its Founder and Director Emeritus, Elliott Higgins. Elliott pioneered North America's first independent solo horn competition in 1976. This event, the Heldenleben International Horn Competition, was transformed over the years into today's IHCA. In addition, Elliott led a multifaceted musical career, which included positions as a professional hornist, orchestra manager, conductor, teacher, and a leader of Hummingbird Music Camp in New Mexico.
Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Elliott Higgins attended local schools and graduated from the University of New Mexico. His passion for music came naturally, as eldest child of eminent music educator Kenneth Lloyd Higgins. With wife Wanda, he established the Hummingbird Music Camp in 1959. The camp continues under family ownership, and it is where Elliott finished his career.
Elliott's first orchestra position was as hornist in the Albuquerque Symphony. Following his tenure with the orchestra, his employment combined horn playing with his other skills and abilities. In the early 1960s, Elliott was manager and Principal Horn of the Santa Barbara, California Symphony. His aptitude in business also led to an executive appointment with the Fort Wayne, Indiana Philharmonic. In the 1970s, he was a free-lance hornist in the Cleveland area, and conducted the Opus One Chamber Orchestra.
In 1975 Elliott Higgins and George McCracken (horn designer for King Musical Instruments) attended the International Horn Society symposium near Montreal. They observed a distinct contrast in quality between American and European soloists, which led them to begin the solo competition described in this article. Higgins managed horn competitions from Cleveland through 1980, and then his new home in New Mexico. In 1981 McCracken ceased his involvement.
In 1985, Elliott Higgins asked Steven Gross, winner of the first Competition, to take it over. Elliott remained as Director Emeritus. Since that time, the Competition has continued to grow in stature and visibility. An Internet search manifests dozens of well-known and important hornists whose careers were significantly enhanced by the event. Elliott Higgins will be long remembered for his vision and foresight in establishing a prominent and influential solo horn competition.
(Internet listings may be found under Heldenleben Horn Competition, American Horn Competition, and International Horn Competition of America. The current website is http://www.ihcamerica.org, and is also on Facebook.)
Elliott's return to New Mexico encompassed conducting the Albuquerque Philharmonic, playing for six years with the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra, and the annual Hornswoggle workshop for horn players. His main work in the region, however, was as a teacher and guide for hundreds of students who attended Hummingbird Music Camp over the years. Elliott Higgins is warmly remembered by many as a caring and capable mentor and instructor.
Two other enthusiasms marked his later life. One was chess, for which he hosted an annual symposium. His most vital interest, however, was in his daughter Amber. Elliott's conversations with friends always included loving narratives about Amber's latest accomplishments and activities. He was zealously devoted and passionately interested in all her pursuits. Amber is now enrolled in medical school, and expecting her first child in two months.
In addition to Amber, Elliott Higgins is survived by his mother Wanda, brother Les, and sisters Sally, Jean, and Teena.
A memorial was held on Sunday, October 12 at Hummingbird Music Camp, Jemez Springs, New Mexico.