Ask Beth Lano what her upcoming performance schedule looks like, and she has no idea.
As a freelance performer in Las Vegas, the professional French horn player might back up Johnny Mathis one night, perform with the Las Vegas Philharmonic soon after, then pop over to California for a quick concert with Andrea Bocelli at the Hollywood Bowl.
In fact, her upcoming gigs include playing in the orchestra pit for the national Broadway tour of “The Phantom of the Opera” at The Smith Center from May 31 through June 11.
“There is no routine,” Lano says with a laugh. “I’ve gotten to play with Metallica and The Who, and then a couple weeks later I’m playing Mahler with the philharmonic.”
If you think a professional French horn player doesn’t get a lot of work, think again.
Performing with A-list headliners since she was a college student, Lano works with contractors in both Las Vegas and L.A. who schedule her to perform with a broad range of artists and shows.
Often playing at The Smith Center, she has backed up legendary artists such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, Barbra Streisand and Luciano Pavarotti.
“I never get bored,” says Lano, also associate principal horn with the Las Vegas Philharmonic. “To have all of these opportunities to play the horn, which I consider an extension of my personality, is such an incredible privilege.”
A Musician’s Schedule
Sometimes Lano receives several months notice that she will be needed for a show, such as “The Phantom of the Opera.”
On other occasions, she will have less than a week to prepare, like with “Monty Python’s Spamalot” at the Wynn Las Vegas.
“They said, ‘Steve Wynn wants to add a French horn. You’re it,’” she recalls with a laugh. “It’s not a steady thing, which is kind of a challenge.”
Especially since performing isn’t her day job.
Lano works in many fields, including freelance voice acting, freelance content writing across all mediums, teaching private horn students and business consulting.
Having flexibility with her hours is essential, as there are many reasons why shows suddenly request a French horn player.
These might include union requirements to hire local musicians, a split decision to add extra brass, and various venue needs.
Knowing she might need to perform any time, Lano fits in practice time whenever she can.
“I have a practice routine that covers the basics and endurance – it’s basically like going to the gym for French horn,” she says.
Lano has had a diverse career to prepare her.
She was discovered by none other than Wayne Newton, when she had an opportunity to perform back-up for him while still a college student at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.
Newton noticed her uncanny ability to memorize music, and the tour manager invited Lano and a fellow musician friend to come play in Vegas.
“We had 10 days to come out here,” she says. “We’ve both been here ever since.”
Her talent has landed her unforgettable opportunities, including backing up Frank Sinatra on multiple tours.
“That was a great joy and such an education,” she says. “It taught me so much, not just as a musician but also a consumer of music, because every song he sang, he’d give credit to the songwriters.”
She even joined the orchestra pit of “Jubliee!” at Bally’s in the late ‘80s, eventually becoming the show’s first female assistant conductor.
“It was frightening and exhilarating at the same time,” she says of directing an otherwise all-male band. “I was just so excited the conductor thought I was up to the task, and the guys were all very respectful to me.”
Not Done Yet
Lano doesn’t prefer any shows or artists over others, she says.
She constantly discovers new sounds she enjoys, and embraces any opportunity to try something new.
She has no intention of quitting anytime soon, she adds.
“My favorite job is always the next one coming up,” Lano says. “I want to play until I start sounding bad, and I hope that day never comes.”