Holiday Horns concert in Westminster to celebrate founders

The 2014 ensemble of Holiday Horns are pictured during a concert at TownMall in Westminster.
The 2014 ensemble of Holiday Horns are pictured during a concert at TownMall in Westminster. (Courtesy photo)

What do you get when you cross a length of garden hose, a French horn mouth piece and a funnel?

If you were Phil Hooks, you had the perfect instrument with which to serenade your fellow Carroll Lutheran Village residents on their birthday.


Though Hooks was best known for teaching French horn to generations of students and founding the annual Holiday Horns concert, his penchant for unique instruments like the garden hose French horn and the alpine horn was also well known.

After Hooks passed away in August of this year, his students, friends and colleagues continued with plans for the holiday concert to celebrate his memory.


The concert will take place at Carroll Lutheran Village, 300 St Luke Circle, Westminster, on Saturday, Dec. 22 at 10:30 a.m. in Krug Chapel. It’s free and the public is encouraged to attend.

Holiday Horns is a concert of holiday carols performed by a choir of more than 20 French Horns.

Hook’s sons will attend the concert. Marc Hooks said the tradition began as a gathering of his parents’ music students at their home, with his father’s French Horn students making up the Holiday Horns and his mother Norma’s students forming the 12 bassoons of Christmas.

His parents, Marc Hooks said, formed incredible relationships with their students. The concert “was something fun they could do to give back to the community.”

Carroll’s bars and restaurants are home to a variety of local and area bands and performers. To help plan your night out, the Times has assembled this calendar of musical performances.

Though the bassoons have since disbanded, the French Horn ensemble continued to grow in size.

The weekend before Christmas, they would play a concert at TownMall for holiday shoppers early in the day and a repeat performance at BWI airport. It became a way to connect with former students who had moved away and spread holiday cheer.

A recording of the concert that Marc Hooks produced also played on local cable access TV for many years.

When the Hookses moved to Carroll Lutheran Village in 2017, the concert moved with them, and it will be held there this year.

“The sheer experience of hearing 20-plus French horns play Christmas music together is a special thing in and of itself,” Marc Hooks said.

The Rev. Sarah Dorrance, one of the organizers this year, is a former student of Hooks’ who participated in some of the very first Holiday Horns concerts. She said Carroll Lutheran welcomed the concert with excitement.

“It’s a gift that Phil has given us and we want to continue to give that gift,” she said.

Though the number of players varies year to year, it is usually about 20 and has been as many as 40

“It is pretty rare that you get to hear that many French Horns bringing you the cheer of the holiday,” Dorrance said.

Rachel Seibel, another organizer, was one of Hook’s more recent students and has played for nine years in the concert.

“Mr. Hooks was one of the best horn teachers because he always taught from a place of caring, always pushed you as a student, and always kept in touch once you graduate,” she said. “Even as a college student, he was a great motivating teacher and friend up until he passed away.”

Though known as a French Horn instructor, Phil Hooks also played unique instruments like the alpine horn.
Though known as a French Horn instructor, Phil Hooks also played unique instruments like the alpine horn. (Courtesy Photo)

Dorrance said that even after she graduated, Hooks kept in touch with her and would come support her at concerts.

“He did that with all his students,” she said. ‘Once you were his student, you were his student for life — he was really a great mentor.”

During the concert, the family will be collecting donations toward a scholarship for music students in honor of Phil and Norma Hooks.

“We want new young musicians to to continue to enter into the musician community in Carroll County,” Marc Hooks said.

“I think this is a fitting way to honor Mom and Dad one last time,” he continued. “They touched a lot of lives over the years and this [concert] is one example of that.”

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