Western Hornist

2020 Western Horn Festival with Cobalt Quartet - Online Edition

Hosted by Dr. Jena Gardner

The Western Illinois University Horn Studio held its annual Horn Festival on April 4, 2020 as a streaming event on Facebook and YouTube. Special guests included the Cobalt Quartet (Dr. Jena Gardner, Dr. Katie Johnson-Webb, Dr. Caroline Steiger and Dr. Rose Valby), Dr. Rachel Hockenberry, Dr. Robert Palmer, and Mr. Chad Walker. Participants joined in from all over the world for sessions on breathing, horn maintenance, meditation, and more!

Dr. Katie Johnson-Webb


Katie Johnson-Webb is the Assistant Professor of Horn at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. She excels as a flexible, thoughtful, and active performer of solo repertoire, chamber music, and orchestral literature. In past years, Katie was selected to attend the Aspen Summer Music Festival in Aspen, Colorado, the Kent/Blossom Music Festival in Kent, Ohio, and the National Repertory Orchestra in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Katie has been heard in recital at the 2018 International Horn Symposium at Ball State University, the 2016 International Horn Symposium at Ithaca College, and the 2015 International Horn Symposium at the Colburn School. Additionally, Katie has given recitals and masterclasses at universities across the United States. In July 2018, Katie collaborated with pianist, Kirstin Idhe, to record her first solo CD, La Loba, which will be released in 2019. As an active chamber musician, Katie is a member of the Tennessee Brass Quintet and a founding member of the Cobalt Horn Quartet, winners of the 2018 International Horn Society Horn Quartet Competition – Professional Division.

As a clinician, she presented a lecture on incorporating ear training in private teaching at the 2015 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, IL. Katie has presented similar lectures at the 2017 and 2016 Southeast Horn Workshops and the 2015 Northeast Horn Workshop.

Katie completed her undergraduate studies in music and political science at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana. Katie completed the Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2012 under the direction of Professor Emeritus Douglas Hill and Professor Daniel Grabois. While completing the Master of Music degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she worked closely with Professor Douglas Hill as a Bolz Fellow. In 2018, she was awarded a grant from the American Scandinavian Foundation to collaborate with Norwegian hornist and pedagogue, Frøydis Ree Wekre in Oslo, Norway.

Dr. Caroline Steiger


As a teacher Dr. Steiger has held positions at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music (Visiting Assistant Professor of Horn, 2014), Penn State University (Teacher Assistant), and the University of Michigan (Graduate Student Assistant). While at Penn State University, Caroline was the Assistant Director of the Penn State Horn Ensemble and helped plan tours that included performances at the Pennsylvania Music Educator’s Association (PMEA) conference, Lancaster, and Hershey, PA.

Dr. Steiger’s work as a musician has included performances with the San Antonio Symphony, Toledo Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings, and the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra during its 2015 US tour. She is currently 2nd Horn in the Mid-Texas Symphony.

Committed to chamber music, Dr. Steiger has played with the Potsdam Brass Quintet, faculty quintet-in-residence at SUNY Potsdam, the Emblems Woodwind Quintet, an Ann Arbor-based quintet focused on performing new and underrepresented works, and is a founding member of the Cobalt Quartet (Winners, 2018 International Horn Society Quartet Competition-Professional Division). Dr. Steiger has presented and performed at the Texas Music Educators Association Conference (2018), the Association for Technology in Music (2017), and the International Horn Society Symposium (2018). In 2015 she participated in a chamber music residency at the University of Michigan with New York Philharmonic principal winds, where she performed with Philip Myers. A commitment to new music is evident through her participation in chamber ensembles as well as the University of Michigan’s Contemporary Directions Ensemble, which premiered several works by U of M composition students and participated in the Midwest Composers Symposium in 2013.

Dr. Steiger’s main teachers include Adam Unsworth, Bryan Kennedy, Lisa Bontrager, Soren Hermansson, and Corbin Wagner. She has also studied with and participated in master classes with Gail Williams, Fergus McWilliam, David Krehbiel, Robert Ward, Bernhard Scully, and Jeffrey Lang.

Dr. Rachel Hockenberry (guest appearance with Cobalt Quartet)


Dr. Rachel Hockenberry is the Assistant Professor of Horn at Illinois State University. Since moving to Illinois in 2018, Rachel has performed with the Heartland Festival Orchestra, Quad Cities Symphony, Champaign-Urbana Symphony, and the Stiletto Brass Quintet. Prior to 2018, Rachel enjoyed a busy career throughout Southern California and Cincinnati, Ohio as a horn performer and music educator. She has performed with the Columbus Symphony, Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra Kentucky, Santa Barbara Symphony, and many others. She is principal horn of the Queen City Opera, where in October of 2015 she had the distinct pleasure of performing the infamous “Long Call” from Act II of Richard Wagner’s Siegfried.

A Virginia native, Rachel received her bachelor’s degree in horn performance from James Madison University. She earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in horn performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where she also completed cognate studies in arts administration.

Dr. Jena Gardner


Jena Gardner, DMA, is the Assistant Professor of Horn at Western Illinois University. In addition to teaching, she is an active soloist, chamber musician and orchestral player throughout the state of Illinois and the United States. Dr. Gardner has performed extensively around the world including tours in Europe, Mexico, Japan, and the United States. She has been a guest section member with the Chicago Lyric Opera, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Intercontemporain, the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra, Steamboat Springs Festival Orchestra horn sections and was acting 2nd and 4th horn of the Louisiana Philharmonic orchestra for the 2012 and 2013 seasons respectively.

Dr. Gardner is a passionate chamber musician and can be heard performing with the faculty ensembles at WIU: the Camerata Woodwind Quintet and the Lamoine Brass Quintet . From 2010-2015 she was a member of the Arabesque Winds. With that ensemble, she performed concerts and master classes at the University of Madison, Wisconsin, the Sanibel Music Festival, the Wooster Chamber Music Festival and many others.

In 2016 Dr. Gardner was the recipient of the Early Music America Summer Study Scholarship and attended the Natural Horn Workshop at Indiana University, studying with Dr. Richard Seraphinoff. Previously, she has participated in the Lucerne Festival Academy, the Youth Orchestras of America, New York String Orchestra Seminar, and the Pacific Music Festival. From 2007-09, Dr. Gardner was a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and had the privilege to perform under the batons of Bernard Haitink, Pierre Boulez, Mark Elder, Esa-pekka Salonen and many others.

Dr. Gardner recently completed a Doctor of Musical Arts at Northwestern University under the guidance of Gail Williams and Jon Boen and was involved in presenting the 2016 and 2017 Peak Performance Horn Symposiums. She holds Masters and Bachelors degrees in horn performance from Carnegie Mellon and Northwestern Universities respectively. Her principal teachers have included Gail Williams, Jon Boen, Bill Caballero, Dave Krehbiel, and Jennie Blomster.

Cobalt Quartet

Founded in 2017, Cobalt Quartet is a professional horn quartet comprised of four female hornists and educators, Jena Gardner, Katie Johnson-Webb, Caroline Steiger and Rose Valby. In August 2018, Cobalt Quartet won the professional division of the International Horn Society’s Horn Quartet Competition. Cobalt Quartet has given performances and masterclasses across the United States. Members of the ensemble hold positions at Western Illinois University, Texas State University, The University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and in the United States Air Force Band of the West. Through their performances and master classes, the Cobalt Quartet is dedicated to educating, engaging, and entertaining audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

2020 WESTERN HORN FESTIVAL -- Video Archive

Group Warmup with Dr. Jena Gardner

Western Horn Festival Masterclass with Cobalt Quartet

Final Concert and Horn Choir Play Along with Cobalt Quartet

Meet the Performers, an interview with Cobalt Quartet

Horn Maintenance with Mr. Chad Walker

Just Breathe: Understanding and Overcoming Performance Anxiety with Dr. Robert Palmer

Meditation with Dr. Rachel Hockenberry

Breathing for Horn Players with Dr. Caroline Steiger

Horn Fundamentals 101 with Dr. Katie Johnson- Webb

General Information

HornFest Poster