Helen Kotas (1916-200): A Female Pioneer in Major US Orchestras

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Helen Kotas was an accomplished musician and teacher who helped open the door for women in major US orchestras. In 1941 the Chicago Symphony hired its first female brass musician, principal hornist Helen Kotas. With that daring move, she became a pioneer for her gender in the major orchestras of North America. Despite her many contributions to the musical community, Kotas's life has not been researched and documented. This paper looks at Helen Kotas's career as well as a glimpse at her life and personality. In addition to documenting her life, this dissertation attempts to show at least a portion ... continued below

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Thayer, Heather Leweise May 2011.

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  • Thayer, Heather Leweise

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Helen Kotas was an accomplished musician and teacher who helped open the door for women in major US orchestras. In 1941 the Chicago Symphony hired its first female brass musician, principal hornist Helen Kotas. With that daring move, she became a pioneer for her gender in the major orchestras of North America. Despite her many contributions to the musical community, Kotas's life has not been researched and documented. This paper looks at Helen Kotas's career as well as a glimpse at her life and personality. In addition to documenting her life, this dissertation attempts to show at least a portion of Kotas's philosophy of teaching and horn playing. She was an accomplished horn soloist and studied the literature extensively. Kotas performed in the Chicago Civic Orchestra, the Woman's Symphony Orchestra, and Leopold Stokowski's All-American Youth Orchestra. Kotas was hired by Fritz Reiner as third horn of the Pittsburgh Symphony. When Frederick Stock, conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, heard that Helen Kotas was going to Pittsburgh, he insisted that she audition for the CSO. Kotas auditioned on the Concerto for Horn by Richard Strauss and the concertmaster said, "Hire her!" She performed as principal horn with the orchestra until Artur Rodzinski was hired as conductor in 1948 and replaced Kotas with Philip Farkas. Following her time with the CSO, Kotas was principal horn of the Chicago Lyric Opera and taught at the Sherwood and American Conservatories. She was an active soloist and premiered works by Arne Oldberg and Hugo Kauder.

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Doctoral Lecture Recital: 2011-03-02 - Heather Thayer, horn (Sound)

Doctoral Lecture Recital: 2011-03-02 - Heather Thayer, horn

Recital presented at the UNT College of Music Voertman Hall in partial fulfillment of the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree.

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  • May 2011

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  • Jan. 10, 2012, 9:44 a.m.

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  • Nov. 10, 2017, 1:57 p.m.

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Thayer, Heather Leweise. Helen Kotas (1916-200): A Female Pioneer in Major US Orchestras, dissertation, May 2011; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc68053/: accessed June 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .