Rachel Hockenberry

Horn Performer, Music Educator

The Day Zero Project

Hello, friends!  Welcome to my new blog on my new website!  I eventually plan to move all of my old blogs to this forum, but in the meantime I hope you enjoy my new and more-frequent posts!


I'm a big goal setter.  I love making goal lists and coming up with grand plans.  Seeing those goals through, however, is sometimes a different story.  We all know how that song and dance goes.  

In an effort to hold myself more accountable, I created a list through the Day Zero Project. This site helps you make goal lists with deadlines attached, and helps you keep track of your progress.  I decided to go with their most popular list, 101 Things in 1001 Days.  This is just as easy as it sounds: pick 101 things that you want to accomplish within approximately 2 years and 9 months, write it down, and do it!  The only guideline is that the items on your list have to be things that you can actually accomplish in that amount of time.  For instance, it wouldn't be wise to write "Go to the moon" as a goal if you haven't even applied for a job at NASA yet.  Or, in my world, it wouldn't be realistic to write "Become 4th horn in the Cincinnati Symphony" because I don't have the first clue if that job will even be available in the next 3 years, much less have any way of guaranteeing that I will win the audition for that particular job.  

Below is my current list, scheduled to start January 1, 2016.  If I succeed, I will have achieved all of these items by September 28, 2018.  Some items I will start right away; other items will take more time.  If you can count, you will notice a huge flaw in my list: It only has 89 items.  Even though my list isn't completed yet, there's a good reason I'm positing it anyway.  You see, I originally created this list in May of 2014.  I got up to 91 items, but because I couldn't think of the remaining 10 items, I used that as an excuse to NEVER START THE CHALLENGE.  I recently revisited that list of 91 items, deleted the things that were no longer relevant, and added new items more pertinent to my current existence.  Even though I only have 89 items as of today, I don't want to use that as an excuse to keep from accomplishing my goals!  I'm sure I'll come up with the remaining 13 items soon.  And if I don't?  WHO CARES!  I STILL ACCOMPLISHED 89 AWESOME THINGS!

So, here it is, my current Day Zero Project List:



  • Apply for at least 2 college jobs per year
  • Study at least 10 new scores
  • Take at least 2 auditions per year
  • Play for at least 3 different people before each audition
  • Increase my private studio by an average of 3 students per year
  • Maintain my website with updated performance schedules and recordings
  • Make solo recordings
  • Update my blog 4 times a year or more
  • Start a student horn ensemble
  • Host an annual student recital
  • Create or join a chamber music ensemble
  • Prioritize my practice schedule over all other activities



  • Start a retirement account
  • Pay off my car
  • Make regular payments on my student loans beginning July 2015



  • Complete three 10K races
  • Run 2 half marathons, at least 6 months apart from each other
  • Go on 5 long bike rides (20 miles or more)
  • Hold a headstand for one minute
  • Complete 5 unassisted pull-ups
  • Stretch every day for a year
  • Maintain an exercise regime of at least 4 days a week for the duration of the Day Zero Challenge



  • Use 2 new recipes a year from each cookbook I own
  • Follow a raw food diet for a week (during the summer when it's warm outside)
  • Eat only food I have prepared for 1 week per year (no restaurants, pre-made sandwiches, protein bars, etc)



  • All 3 LOTR books and The Hobbit
  • 3 books related to neuroscience and/or psychology
  • Finish Anna Karenina
  • Inner Game of Tennis
  • Fight your Fear and Win
  • A book about a new hobby or interest TBD
  • The Total Money Makeover



  • Donate to 10 El Sistema programs
  • Give 2 recitals, donating all proceeds to non-profit organizations
  • Go in with Kate to buy a nice vacation for Mom and Dad when Dad retires
  • Donate my hair
  • Complete at least one volunteer activity per year
  • Take on at least one private student free of charge
  • Provide meals for homeless people 5 times a year



  • Visit Sara in St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Go to Mexico
  • Go on an international trip other than Mexico
  • Take a vacation with friends
  • Hear the Seattle and Oregon symphonies in their home cities
  • Go to New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Go to Nashville, Tennessee
  • Take Blake to Virginia
  • See the Grand Canyon
  • Go to Hawaii


Personal Victories:

  • Become proficient in the Spanish language
  • Learn how to change my own oil
  • Learn how to change a tire
  • Take a course on basic car maintenance
  • Get a third tattoo
  • Meditate 30 times
  • Watch and like (or at least understand) football
  • Find one new hobby
  • Write a short story
  • Learn basic bicycle maintenance
  • Take an adult gymnastics class



  • Clean out car once a week for a year
  • Clean room once a week for a year
  • Clean kitchen once a week for a year



  • Go skiing for the first time
  • Learn to Salsa dance
  • Learn to swing dance
  • Hike a portion of the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trail
  • Ride a motorcycle
  • Go whale watching
  • Fly on a trapeze
  • Ride in a hot air balloon
  • Go camping
  • Visit Joshua Tree
  • Journal once a month



  • Start going on double dates
  • Host a large dinner party
  • Take initiative inviting friends to do things
  • Call one long-distance friend a month for a year (Cecilia and Gary don't count)



  • Buy a nice keyboard
  • Learn at least 5 songs on the piano while singing
  • Competently play all 6 Bach cello suites on the horn, at concert pitch
  • Attend 5 Metropolitan Opera Live in HD performances
  • Practice lip trills every day for a year
  • Compile a book of warm ups
  • Watch the Ring Cycle in its entirety
  • Watch Tosca
  • Watch Der Rosenkavalier
  • See a professional opera live
  • Perform 1 unaccompanied work on each of my 2 recitals
  • Write a song


I plan on regularly tracking my progress and checking off items as they are completed!  Stay tuned for updates.  In the meantime, do you see anything missing from this list that you'd like to see me do?  Leave a comment and let me know!  I do still have 13 spaces to fill, after all!

Wishing all of you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2016 and beyond!

The Randy Gardner Accuracy Challenge

Originally Posted on August 6, 2011


I consider myself extremely lucky to be a student of Randy Gardner at CCM. Never forgetting about his students during the summer, one of a few summer projects Mr. Gardner assigned us is what I will refer to as the Randy Gardner Accuracy Challenge, or simply The Challenge. Mr. Gardner created and subjected himself to this exercise over the course of a summer during his college years. The Challenge requires the participant to own book 1 of the Maxime-Alphonse 200 Etudes nouvelles melodies et progressives pour cor. Here's how you play:


1. Open your Maxime-Alphonse to the first page.

2. Play the first etude PERFECTLY three times IN A ROW. Do not miss a note. Do not even let so much as an unclean attack make its way into your performance. Follow all articulations, dynamics, phrasing and tempi.

3. If you miss a note, DO NOT STOP. Finish the etude, then start over.

4. If you mess up in your second or third repetition, you must complete the repetition and then start over again at performance #1. For example: if you miss a note in the middle of your second repetition, you must play to the end of the etude, and then start over with attempt #1.

5. You guessed it: even if you miss the very last note of your third repetition, you must start the cycle over again. You must play the etude perfectly three times IN A ROW before you can move on to the next etude.

6. Repeat this process for all 70 etudes.


Needless to say, one can easily go crazy trying to do this. Because of this, it is recommended that one spend no more than 10-15 minutes at a time on The Challenge.


For those non-horn players reading this post, the 1st book of Maxime-Alphonse is not technically challenging for a more advanced player. I know a lot of players use this book in high school or even early college, though I personally have never used this series before now. On average, these etudes are only between 3-6 lines long.


I began my journey with The Challenge yesterday. I consider myself to be a fairly accurate player. I have perfect pitch, so hearing the note before I play it is rarely an issue (hearing it perfectly in tune, especially if it is not a perfect interval, is a different story, and will probably be the subject of a later blog post). At a glance, the early pages of the book seem like they could be performed perfectly three times in a row fairly easily, especially for a player who considers herself accurate. Well...

                                                                     I might be giving myself cancer.

                                                                     I might be giving myself cancer.


It took me 15-20 minutes to get through the 1st etude 3 times in a row. I had no problems playing the etude once through perfectly. It was the second try when I kept making mistakes, and would have to finish out the performance and then start over at 1. After about 5 tries, I got through 2 perfect performances of the etude. At that point, I was determined not to mess it up on the 3rd time. I was successful.


Today I began my work on etude #2. As I said, I have never used this book before, so each etude is a sightread for me. In 10 minutes, I got through the etude 1 time perfectly. This was the end of my practice session, and my face was too tired for any more attempts, so etude #2 and I will face off again tomorrow.


The Challenge is predominately an exercise in concentration. I have never found myself so upset at a woman walking a cute puppy down the road outside of my window as when I was working on The Challenge. It also shows you what little flaws you may be letting yourself get away with in other performances. Though frustrating, I expect this exercise to be an educational and self-improving experience.