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SFCM TikTok Star Gets Symphony Seat Before Graduation

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Henry Nordhorn's performance of the iconic horn solo from Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony has been viewed more than 9.5 million times on the social media platform.

January 5, 2023 by Alex Heigl

By Alex Heigl

Unfortunately, all the social media likes in the world are of no use in a blind orchestra audition, but fortunately for Henry Nordhorn, he has talent to match.

Nordhorn—who became one of the biggest stars of SFCM's TikTok channel in December 2021 for his beautiful rendition of the French horn solo in the second movement of Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony—has been busy in the year since his moment of viral fame. And that's not just because he's finishing his second year as a master's student at the Conservatory: He also won the position of assistant principal horn with the Spokane Symphony for their 2022-2023 season.

Since its first post in 2021, SFCM’s TikTok channel has exploded to more than 185,000 followers, making it one of the most-followed colleges in the country on the popular app. (Fellow SFCM TikTok star Julia Pyke, whose video performances have accrued over 2.7 million views on the Conservatory's channel, also won a position in Spokane, joining them as principal flute next season.)

Juggling his new professional requirements with school hasn't been easy for Nordhorn, who grew up in Olympia, Washington, about six hours away from Spokane, but he's already notched several performances with the Symphony, whom, he said, had no idea about his online fame.

Nordhorn, who studies with Robert Ward at SFCM takes his TikTok fame with a grain of salt, allowing it's "kind of cool" but also "weird."

"Back home, I'm the last person in my group of friends who would have been voted most likely to go viral on TikTok. It's just not what I expected to happen, and then it blew up so much. I had people who I hadn't talked to in years reaching out saying they saw me on their TikTok 'for you page.'"

While he didn't get any gigs directly from that brush with fame, Nordhorn said he enjoyed watching other TikTok stars commenting on the clip, like violin duo TwoSet (who have 1.1 million followers) and, well, Santa Claus (4.3 million followers).

And despite getting a firsthand look at the power of social media, he hasn't really ramped up his own presence on the major channels: "I have an Instagram that I post on occasionally, for my horn playing. But that's the only channel I actually post anything on that's like playing-related. I have a TikTok account, but I don't post anything on it. It's just for reviewing things."

Asked if the experience has changed his views on social media for better or worse, Nordhorn said it's mostly just changed his perception of how he presents his musicianship online. "I started my Instagram as a practice space so that my close friends could follow it and I could put videos of me practicing and if I screwed up, I screwed up. And it was a laugh between friends. Now that there's a few more people who are following that account that I'm not close with and it's become more of a public account, I feel like I can't post things that are halfway done."

"So it's just different now," he laughed. "I have to be careful what I post."

Learn more about studying horn or brass at SFCM.