U grad’s French horn fluke

Alumna makes playing Carnegie Hall look effortless, sound excellent

by Tatum Fjerstad

Last week, Rachel Drehmann dined at the swanky W New York Times Square Hotel amid rehearsals for her Carnegie Hall performance.

She reflected on how approximately a decade earlier, she didn’t care about the French horn. She was just another ambivalent preteen who signed up for the school band.

Drehmann, an alumna of the University’s School of Music, performed Sunday at the Red Bull’s Artsehcro, (think orchestra backwards). The show brought classical orchestra to hip-hop as turntablist DJ Radar and Raul Yáñez blended beats and chords.

More than 300 students applied to perform in Artsehcro. Drehmann auditioned last summer on a whim – the latest of many that have turned into gigs, into elite groupings, into Carnegie Hall.

“They said ‘Hey, you’re in,’ and I was like What? How did this happen?” Drehmann said.

Drehmann played with about 60 student musicians for a “packed hall” and got a standing ovation, she said.

“This was different than any performance I’ve ever done, and I think most of the orchestra feels that way,” she said.

Originally from Pulaski, Wis., Drehmann graduated from the University’s School of Music last spring. She now lives in New York City and attends the Manhattan School of Music with a 90 percent scholarship.

Drehmann doesn’t even know “how this all happened,” she said. In fifth grade, she had to choose an instrument and arbitrarily picked the French horn.

“It’s all like this big blur,” Drehmann said. “I started to love and it went from there.”

She “randomly” auditioned for the School of Music. And she got in. But she wasn’t committed.

“I wanted out, but they wouldn’t let me out,” Drehmann said. “I ended up studying with the admissions coordinator and having a really good relationship and experience with him. So I stuck with it.”

Wayne Lu, 34, the former admissions coordinator who encouraged Drehmann, taught her throughout her undergraduate years

When Drehmann started out, she didn’t know what she was doing, but she quickly improved and grew, Lu said.

“Once she was focused, she was a sponge. She soaked up everything,” Lu said. “She is probably the best horn player I have heard at the undergraduate level.”

Drehmann’s work at the Manhattan School of Music is a mighty accomplishment, Lu said.

“In all my time in teaching, I’ve never had a student been accepted to a school as strong as Manhattan,” he said. “She’s going to be someone that the U of M is going to be proud of for years to come.”

Drehmann has studied with prestigious names like Jerome Ashby, the associate principal horn of the New York Philharmonic.

Drehmann, when in Minnesota, is also part of the Minneapolis-based band A Whisper in the Noise. It combines male vocals, piano, bass, drums, violin and horn. Drehmann isn’t a part of the group right now but gets together with them when she is in Minneapolis.

Drehmann plans to continue auditioning for orchestras, and travel.

“I’m not quite ready to settle down in one place yet,” she said. “I want to see where my music takes me.”