Hornswoggle History

Hornswoggle premiered in 1980 as the first music workshop in the United States solely dedicated to the study of the French Horn. The event featured hornist Dale Clevenger.  Creator Elliott Higgins would select guest artists from three groups; winners of the Heldenleiben Horn Competition, the world’s best-known performers and prominent teachers, or unknown young artists whose abilities needed to be brought to light within the Horn community.

The Memorial Weekend 3-day event is located in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico at Hummingbird Music Camp, run by the Higgins family since 1958.  Hummingbird was known within the horn community by Father K.L. Higgins and son Elliott Higgins, both Horn players of great merit. Hornswoggle would kick off on Friday, utilizing the Hummingbird facilities as participants attended various educational clinics and rehearsals.  On Saturday evening, the regional artists had a recital for all in attendance.  This is an opportunity for regional artists to both display their abilities but also for professors to possibly identify future students.  The event culminated on Sunday in a performance by all participants with an audience comprised of incoming students and parents for the first week’s Hummingbird Music Camp (ages 8-18, all musical instruments).  Hornswoggle served as the kickoff event for the following 9 weeks of Hummingbird Music Camp. 

Elliott passed away in 2014 and Hornswoggle was retired until the family found someone to take on the logistic and bookkeeping responsibilities required for the event.  Click here for more information on your current hosts, Karl and Ericha Kemm.

About our founder Elliott Higgins

Elliott Higgins (1941-2014)

by Steven Gross

 Elliott Higgins pioneered North America’s first independent solo horn competition in 1976. This event, the Heldenleben International Horn Competition, was transformed over the years into today’s IHCA. In addition, Elliott led a multifaceted musical career as a professional hornist, orchestra manager, conductor, teacher, and a leader of Hummingbird Music Camp in New Mexico.

Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Elliott attended local schools and graduated from the University of New Mexico. His passion for music came naturally, as eldest child of eminent music educator Kenneth Lloyd Higgins. With wife Wanda, he established the Hummingbird Music Camp in 1959. The camp continues under family ownership, and it is where Elliott finished his career. Elliott’s first orchestra position was as hornist in the Albuquerque Symphony. In the early 1960s, Elliott was manager and principal horn of the Santa Barbara (California) Symphony. His aptitude in business also led to an executive appointment with the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Philharmonic. In the 1970s, he was a free-lance hornist in the Cleveland area and conducted the Opus One Chamber Orchestra.

Elliott’s return to New Mexico encompassed conducting the Albuquerque Philharmonic, playing for six years with the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra, and the annual Hornswoggle workshop for horn players. His main work in the region, however, was as a teacher and guide for hundreds of students who attended Hummingbird Music Camp over the years. Elliott Higgins is warmly remembered by many as a caring and capable mentor and instructor.

Excerpt reprinted with permission from The Horn Call, XLV #2, February 2015

For Hornswoggle Archive Info, click 

Hummingbird Camp circa late 1950's

Hornswoggle Workshop is a communal education opportunity for Horn players in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico.


(940) 300-3131