Paul Horn was born on March 17, 1930 in New York. His father, although not a musician, but a salesman by trade, always supported his passion for music. His mother, an accomplished musician herself, was his main early influence. A gifted musician from birth, Paul played piano by age four, switched to the clarinet at ten, followed by the saxophone two years later. Paul was struck by the music bug and knew that he wanted to make a career out of playing when he first heard the likes of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw.
Along with the classical and pop music he grew up with, these swing masters became the vocational homing beacon for Paul. His family moved to Washington D.C., where he began to play in small clubs in jam sessions with the local jazz musicians, learning improvisation through trial and error.
He would eventually leave Washington to attend The Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he majored in clarinet, began to play the flute as a second instrument at the age of nineteen and earned a Bachelors of Music Degree. He would later go on to attend The Manhattan School of Music where he would earn a Masters degree. During a three year stint in the military, playing flute in The Army Field Band, he began to master the flute, which would later become his primary instrument.
He then joined the Sauter-Finegan Big Band in New York, a post-swing outfit that included an odd assortment of instruments, which at that time defied commercial considerations. It’s no coincidence that Paul would hook up with a duo of talented composers who would blaze their own musical trail, something he would do in the years to come. While New York was a buzz, California and the burgeoning jazz scene called him to the other side of the country to join the famed Chico Hamilton Quintet.