“Music is important to me. My legacy to the world is not going to be anything special because I haven’t left any monuments or masterpieces or recordings that I’m proud of, or anything else like that. But, if I can support the orchestra in the future, then other people will experience the joy of great music.”
Anne Slayden is relatively new to the Symphony. She first took out her subscription in 2012 when she moved to Halifax with her partner, Randal Ulmer. Both horn players, Anne is a member of the Sackville Community Band, Chebucto Symphony, and Scotia Brass. Randy runs a successful business repairing brass instruments, and plays regularly with Symphony Nova Scotia.
Besides music, Anne’s other passions are all things Italian (she is still taking language classes): architecture, sculpture, painting – particularly of the Renaissance – and she has a wonderful collection of Italian pottery. She is a (retired) 2nd-degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do, and presently practices Tai Chi. An ex-home brewer, Anne is now totally committed to Nova Scotia Craft beer. A lifelong baseball fanatic, Anne has switched her allegiance from the New York Mets to the Toronto Blue Jays. Randy and Anne have enjoyed getting to know their new home by travelling often through the Maritimes.
Anne has quickly become a stalwart Symphony champion, attending all kinds of performances and events throughout the concert season and offering plenty of feedback and support. If you’ve run into Anne, you’ll recognize her smiling face and remember her openness, sharp sense of humour, and, of course, that great New York accent.
“Music has always been a part of my life, and the more I’ve lived, the more important it has become to me,” says Anne. She grew up in a musical family in Yonkers, a city north of the Bronx. Carnegie Hall was a short commute, and in her words, “The Metropolitan Opera on Saturday afternoons was absolutely mandatory for everyone. It was on the radio at two o’clock, and you could be outside playing baseball and you heard it. It was really an institution.”
Anne started playing the violin in the Grade 4, and went on to the play the viola and trumpet in high school before she was introduced to the french horn by a particularly intuitive band teacher. “It was love at first blow! It was like, ‘This is what I want to hear. This is the sound. This is it!’ The heavens opened. It was like a Baroque ceiling with pink clouds and angels playing trumpets. So, I became a horn player.”
She kept playing through college, earning a Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Music, and after graduation, she got a job right away as a horn player – which she says was quite lucky. The Savannah Symphony in Georgia offered $50 per week for 20 weeks; all told, it was $1,000 for the whole season. From there, her horn playing took her to Alabama and a glorious summer in Siena, Italy, before landing back home in New York.
In her 20s and living in Westchester County, Anne remembers a time when she was piecing together a living. “That’s when I started working at anything I could get: dental assistant, artist’s model, office worker – anything that paid a bill. I found myself a wonderful horn teacher and started to get serious about it. I just kept banging away at it, playing in amateur orchestras, and I finally started making a little money at it, but not much.”
It was the City College Orchestra that eventually brought Randy and Anne together. “We played a lot of good stuff in that orchestra: Brahms, Mahler,” says Anne. “Randy was quite a wonderful horn player.”
Eventually, Anne landed full-time work in Music Management in New York, a great job that she kept for over 23 years. Randy was working as the brass repairman at the Giardinelli instrument shop in Manhattan. He soon went out on his own, becoming the busiest repairman in the city, with many distinguished clients, from the Boston Symphony to the Hong Kong Philharmonic. He was also playing horn on the side. “He went anywhere for a job. That’s the thing about New York freelance: Latin bands, pop singers, funerals,” says Anne, “but after a while, he started to get some really good work; the American Ballet Theatre, Broadway shows, orchestras. We’re here now on his musician’s pension because of the bazillion notes he played from the age of 30 to the age of 60.”
Fast forward to 2012 and Anne and Randy have landed in Halifax to start a new chapter in life. “We wanted to move to a place that had a university and theatre and culture. An orchestra in the city was one of the nec plus ultras that was necessary for us, but we never believed it would be so good!
“The first time we heard the Symphony play, we were very impressed. It was in the middle of the War of 1812 anniversary celebration – a spring concert the Maritime Museum – and it was excellent! Everyone in the orchestra was great. We were delighted to find this phenomenal musical community in Halifax.
“Once you learn to play an instrument, no matter where you are, there will be an orchestra or a band to join which provides you with an ‘instant family.’ The musical fraternity is everywhere, and they are the smartest, funniest, warmest people you’ll ever meet.”