Why did I choose the bassoon? I had no idea what a bassoon was when I was at instrument try-out night in my middle school band program. I wanted to play the English horn and had no urge to play what everyone else was going to play (i.e. flute, sax, trumpet). My band director said, "We don't have an English horn. It's either oboe or bassoon if you want something along that line." I thought the word bassoon sounded cool and said, "okay, I'll play the bassoon." He handed me the heavy, beat-up wooden case, a beginning band book for bassoon, and said, "I have no idea how to teach this. You are on your own." Over twenty years later, here I am as a professional bassoonist.
What was my path to becoming a professional bassoonist? When I was in high school, I loved music, but I also loved meteorology and animals. Yet, I always found myself teaching in band class and playing in every opportunity possible on bassoon. When I went away to college, I started on the path thinking I would become a veterinarian, like my father. But, advanced music study and utterly failing in chemistry class changed that course (fyi: I'm terrible at chemistry...but I'm great at music chemistry, though!); I was much more in love with and committed to music in college. All throughout my collegiate studies, I found myself teaching young bassoonists in the community and performing in every ensemble needing a bassoonist. In orchestras, I loved being in the "hot seat" and lived for solo moments for the bassoon. I just knew that music was the life for me and to deny that would ultimately make me unhappy. At the end of my doctoral studies, I was fortunate to win my first job at a regional university teaching bassoon and a little bit of everything else in music. Since then, I haven't let up and am now teaching bassoon at the University of Florida in Gainesville, my alma mater. How is that for coming full circle?
Is there a musical lineage in my family? Yes! But I grew up thinking I was the only "artsy fartsy" one in my family. When I begged to play the piano at the age of 5, I recall my father asking me "Are you sure you want to play piano? That means you'll have to practice and take lessons..." He was forced to play piano as a kid and hated lessons. Even though my parents did not come from a musical background, they always supported me and found great teachers to guide me on my musical path with bassoon and piano. In college, I found out that my great grandmother and grandfather were musicians (pianist and trombonist/violinist respectively) in the Cleveland Orchestra around the early twentieth century. They apparently "hung out with Rachmaninoff" when he was in town. My great grandmother loved listening to Pavarotti (that love has definitely been passed on to me).
What are some of my favorite orchestral works? In no particular order: Shostakovich 5, 9, and 10, Beethoven 6, Shostakovich's Violin Concerto 1, Sibelius 2, Mahler 2, Scheherazade, Prokofiev 5, Mozart Clarinet Concerto...I could go on and on. These all give me the "feels."
Who are some of my musical inspirations? Singers are a big inspiration to me. Pavarotti, Diana Damrau, Barbara Bonney, Kathleen Battle, Freddie Mercury, Karen Carpenter, Elly Ameling, Dietrich Fischer-Diskau, Philippe Jaroussky, Cecilia Bartoli. As for bassoonists Frank Morelli, Judith Leclair, Milan Turkovic, Sophie Dervaux (to name a few!). Other instrumentalists: Gil Shaham, Albrecht Mayer, Paula Robison, Tessa Lark (to name a few!)
photo credit: Rich Johnson