L.A. Studio Legends: Dylan Hart

French Horn player extraordinaire talks his career as studio musician in Hollywood and his many collaborations with John Williams, including his work as Principal Horn on The Post and the recent Star Wars sequels The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker

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Los Angeles native French Horn player Dylan Skye Hart is part of the younger generation of studio musician who are carrying over the great tradition of the “Hollywood sound” in film scores established by legendary horn players such as Vince DeRosa and Jim Thatcher, of whom Dylan can really be considered a natural heir. Dylan had the distinguished honour of performing as Principal Horn for John Williams on a few of his more recent scores, including The Post (2017) and the Star Wars sequels The Last Jedi (2017) and The Rise of Skywalker (2019), following in the footsteps of those above mentioned musicians.

Dylan Hart performing during a recording session (photo courtesy of Dylan Hart)

Dylan Skye Hart grew up in a musical family (his mother is a folk singer and his older brother is a major soundtrack fan), but it wasn’t until his adolescence that he got involved in studying it more seriously, choosing French Horn as his instrument to learn because of the chances of ending up performing in a professional orchestra. As he went along improving and perfecting by attending classes and submitting for auditions, Dylan ended up at the University of Southern California (USC) where he became one of the pupils of the legendary Vince DeRosa, who became a true mentor and inspiration for the young musician. After DeRosa left his teaching position at USC, Hart continued the studies with the other Hollywood horn legend, Jim Thatcher, and it was through him that he also started to do his first gigs as studio musician for film and television soundtracks. The movies he played in during his first years as studio musician includes Horton Hears a Who, Rio, Transformers 3, Epic, Men In Black 3.

The horn section of Danny Elfman’s score for the animated film EPIC (2013, photo courtesy of ScoringSessions.com)

From that moment onward, Dylan became one of the most requested hornists in Hollywood, playing in the section in major blockbuster scores such as Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, The Amazing Spider-Man, Big Hero 6. He was part of the horn section for John Williams’s War Horse in 2011, playing alongside legendary hornists like Jim Thatcher and William Lane. That wasn’t however his first encounter with John Williams’ music—in 2009, Dylan was part of the orchestra touring North America with the Star Wars In Concert series.

The ‘Star Wars In Concert’ North American tour in 2009, in which Dylan Hart performed as part of the horn section

After War Horse, Dylan became part of the section of all subsequent Williams’ recordings in Los Angeles. In 2015, he performed in the much-anticipated score of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first in the sequel trilogy of the famed space saga, directed by J.J. Abrams.

Dylan Hart and LA Phil Principal Horn Andrew Bain (right) with director J.J. Abrams during the recording sessions of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015, photo courtesy of Dylan Hart)

In 2017, Dylan performed as principal horn on the Maestro’s score for Dear Basketball, the Academy Award-winning animated short film produced by Kobe Bryant, beginning his tenure as first-chair French Horn for John Williams. Since then, Dylan has performed as principal horn (together with LA Phil principal Andrew Bain) on Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), The Post (2017) and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019), having also a spotlight as soloist—it’s him performing the iconic ‘Force Theme’ at the end of Episode IX, but also all the delicate solos heard in Steven Spielberg’s The Post. He also performed as principal horn for the Anne-Sophie Mutter project Across the Stars, recorded in Los Angeles in 2018 with Williams conducting.

John Williams and the horn section of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (l-r: Jenny Kim, Andrew Bain, Daniel Kelley, Teag Reeves, Dylan Hart, Mark Adams; photo courtesy of Dylan Hart)
‘The Post’ (2017) features several horn solos performed by Dylan Hart

Dylan Hart has played for many other top Hollywood composers including Alan Silvestri, Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard, Bruce Broughton and Alexandre Desplat. He can be heard on major blockbuster films playing principal horn including Deadpool 2, X-Men: Apocalypse, Suicide Squad, The Jungle Book and Ready Player One. You can hear him play some of the last horn solos written by the late James Horner in his posthumous score for Antonie Fuqua’s remake of The Magnificent Seven (2016).

“[Dylan Hart] is carrying that tradition of what we feel the horn should be about—the sound and the style.”

James Thatcher

Dylan has also worked in the pop and rock music scene, recording albums and making television appearances with Michael Buble, Sting, Neil Patrick Harris, Stevie Wonder, Wu-Tang Clan, Gladys Night, Yo-Yo Ma, and Neil Young. Dylan can be heard playing solo horn on Bob Dylan’s two most recent albums Shadows in the Night and Fallen Angel. In the summer of 2013, he toured Europe with The Who doubling on horn, trumpet, trombone, wagner tuba, and mellophone.

Dylan is also a devoted classical musician—he’s currently Principal Horn for the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Santa Barbara Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Pacific Symphony, and the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. Dylan is also a member of the Los Angeles Horn Quartet and Modern Brass Quintet.

The LA Phil horn secton with guest horn player Sarah Willis (in the center) at a concert at the Hollywood Bowl (photo courtesy of Dylan Hart, used under permission)
A recent recording project by Dylan Hart and guitarist Andrew Synowiec performing J.S.Bach’s Partita No.1 in Bb major, BWV 825, at Sony Scoring Stage in Culver City

Dylan maintains an active teaching studio as the professor of horn performance at Cal State University Long Beach and has been highly sought after as a guest performer and lecturer. In 2014 and 2015 he performed and gave master-classes at Baylor University TX, University of Western Illinois, and several high schools in the Los Angeles area. Dylan was also a guest artist at International Horn Society (IHS) 46 meeting in London as well as the IHS 47 in Los Angeles.

Dylan during a recording session at Warner Bros. studio (photo courtesy of Dylan Hart, used under permission)

In this conversation, Dylan talks about his life and career as French Horn player in Los Angeles, from his humble beginnings to his years studying with Vince DeRosa and Jim Thatcher. He recalls his first gigs in major film scores and his work performing for John Williams in such scores as War Horse, The Post, Dear Basketball and the Star Wars films, offering his own unique insight about Williams’ process in the studio and his writing for the instrument. Dylan also reflects on the great tradition of Hollywood’s horn playing style as mastered by his teachers DeRosa and Thatcher and what it means for him carrying that incredible legacy.

Special Thanks to Dylan Hart for his time and generosity; visit his official website for updates on his career: http://dylanskyehart.com

List of musical excerpts featured in the episode (all music by John Williams, except where noted):

. “Finale”, from Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
. “The Court Decision and End Credits”, from The Post (2017)
. “The Rebellion is Reborn”, from Star Wars – The Last Jedi (2017)
. John Powell, “Symphonophone”, from Horton Hears a Who! (2008)
. “The Departure”, from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Vince DeRosa, horn solo
. “The Reunion” and “Plowing” from War Horse (2011)
. “The Old Death Star”, from Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
. “The Fathiers”, from Star Wars – The Last Jedi (2017)
. “Finale”, from Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
. “Follow Me”, from Star Wars – The Force Awakens (2015)
. “End Credits” from Dear Basketball (2017)
. “The Presses Roll” and “The Court Decision and End Credits”, from The Post (2017)
. “Scherzo for X-Wings”, from Star Wars – The Force Awakens (2015)
. “March” from ‘Superman’ (1978), from the album Celebrating John Williams (Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, 2019)
. “The Rebellion is Reborn”, from Star Wars – The Last Jedi (2017)
. “Reunion”, from Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
. “Night Journeys” for violin and orchestra from Dracula (1979), from the album Across the Stars (Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin; Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles conducted by John Williams, 2019)
. “Farewell” from Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)