Alex Kovling // Class of 2009

[GDYO] taught me a lot about what it takes to go into music as a profession. There is a lot of adversity that comes with the territory, but GDYO helped me realize that preparation is the key to success.

Alex Kovling, a native of Lewisville, Texas, joined the U.S. Navy Band in 2015 and has recently been appointed Principal Horn with the Annapolis Symphony. Having previously held the position of Third Horn since 2018, he covered Principal Horn his entire first season. Since being in the area, his sub work has taken him to guest principal with the Columbus Symphony, Mid-Atlantic Symphony, and York Symphony as well as regularly performing with the North Carolina Symphony, National Philharmonic Orchestra,  Alexandria Symphony, Signature Theater in Arlington, and the Chesapeake Orchestra. Alex takes advantage of chamber music opportunities as a member of Barclay Brass and with his brass quintet, Apex Brass, second prize winner of the Bucharest International Music Competition in 2021. He also occasionally performs with the Washington Symphonic Brass, Annapolis Symphony Brass Quintet and Wind Quintet, Dominion Brass, and the Navy Band Chamber Recital Series. Alex performed the Gordon Jacob Horn Concerto with the Annapolis Symphony in 2021 and soloed with the Navy Band in 2018. He also has enjoyed covering principal with the Navy Band and has even performed alongside Mannheim Steamroller, Andrea Bocelli, The Beach Boys, and Katy Perry. 

Mr. Kovling received his Bachelor of Music from Texas Tech University, where he studied with Christopher M. Smith. After graduating, he continued his studies at Rice University, earning his Master’s Degree in Music. While at Rice, he studied with William VerMeulen and was part of a Christmas CD project called “The Christmas Horn” conducted by Dale Clevenger. Giving back to the younger generation of aspiring musicians, Alex has taught masterclasses at Baylor University and Kansas State University. 

While still a student in Texas, Mr. Kovling was third horn of the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra from 2010-2013 and second horn of Santa Fe Pro Musica in the 2012-2013 season. He was also a regular substitute/extra horn with the Houston Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, and the Amarillo Symphony. Doubling on Wagner Tuba as well as French horn, Kovling performed with the Houston Grand Opera in Richard Wagner’s “Die Walkure.” Mr. Kovling won several awards including the Yamaha Young Performing Artist Competition and was a two-time winner of the Mid-South Horn Workshop solo competition. He attended numerous summer festivals, including the National Orchestral Institute for three years, Texas Music Festival, Round Top Festival Institute and the Banff Brass Residency.

What was your favorite GDYO experience or memory? Do you feel that GDYO had an impact on your life?

My favorite memory from GDYO is when I had the opportunity to perform Konzertstuck for Four Horns by Robert Schumann with members of my section after winning the concerto competition. We then got to perform Brahms’ 2nd Symphony. I was lucky to be playing Principal on both in the same concert. This taught me a lot about what it takes to go into music as a profession. There is a lot of adversity that comes with the territory, but GDYO helped me realize that preparation is the key to success. We rehearsed as a quartet A LOT and even received coaching from Mark Houghton (at the time Principal horn of Fort Worth, now a member of the Pittsburgh Symphony). Leading up to the concert in the Meyerson (a treat in itself), we also performed live on the classical radio station, with piano of course. So, yes, GDYO had a tremendous impact on my life and career. The wealth of experience had in this ensemble under the baton of Rick Giangiulio is unmeasurable.

Tell us about what you’ve been up to since graduating from GDYO.

I earned my BM in Performance with a minor in Business at Texas Tech University, studying horn with Chris Smith. While performing in the top wind ensemble and top orchestra at school, I also won a position with the Lubbock Symphony where I spent four seasons. My senior year, my professor let me play a season on 2nd horn to him in the Santa Fe Pro Musica. After Undergrad and several summers spent at various music festivals, I travelled down to Houston to earn my MM in Performance at Rice University with William Vermeulen. Earning one of the best educations in horn performance at Rice, I began having success with auditions. I was then able to sub frequently with the Houston Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, and the Houston Grand Opera which led to winning a job with the United States Navy Band in Washington, DC within a week of graduating. I have now been here for 6 years and also freelance quite extensively. I am also the Principal Horn of the Annapolis Symphony and a member of Barclay Brass.

What life achievements are you most proud of so far and why?

I am most proud of the happy life I have been able to carve out for myself and my wife. My biggest achievement is being able to share a lifetime with her with careers that bring us happiness and the comfort to travel and do other things that bring us happiness. Oddly, I am also somewhat proud of having performed with Katy Perry, Andrea Bocelli, Mannheim Steamroller, YoYo Ma, Susan Graham, other various high profile classical musicians, Signature Theater, a small chamber group performing video game music at an Anime convention, and many other diverse performance situations. The point I am getting at is, I have had a lot of very unique and exciting opportunities in my career. I never expected to be able to collaborate with so many greats, but I am definitely glad that opportunities have presented themselves. I even got to shake Steven Tyler’s hand after a Capitol Concert with the Navy Band.

Tell us about some of your personal and/or professional goals for the future.

One of my personal goals is to start a family and keep seeing the world. I would love to see more of other continents and sights. Professionally, I just want to perform more great music. The excitement hasn’t worn off for me. My goal is to continue to find excitement in what I do and to share that with audiences.

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by young performers. Every generation brings better/hungrier players. This continues to push me to be better at my job. I want to leave my mark on the industry and contributing as much as I can to the next wave of musicians inspires me to grow.

Any hobbies, fun facts, or life highlights outside your career you’d like to share?

My hobbies usually just involve sports in some ways. I enjoy watching, playing, and partaking in fantasy leagues. I might be addicted to fantasy sports. haha. I currently have 4 dogs. I hope that that is the limit for us….I think it is. Spending time with them and my wife brings me the most joy.

What advice would you give to current GDYO students?

Find what brings you joy, and go for it. Life takes work to be happy. Don’t expect handouts. Be passionate and work hard at what you enjoy the most and you will be rewarded. Live in the moment at each stage of your life and career. Be kind to all and be the best version of yourself that you can be. Lastly, four dogs is a bit much….maybe just shoot for three.