MSO bassoonist says instrument spoke to her

November 13, 2009|By KATE COLEMAN
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Once we get to the first rehearsal, I know the music and I know all those things I have to memorize. And from that point on, it's just refining the differences that Elizabeth may ask for. So at that point it's fine-tuning. I may adjust a reed issue making things comfortable for myself - physically comfortable. By the time you get to the concert, everything's pretty well in place.

Do you practice every day?

During the season, yes. I usually take some time off in August for vacation, and always take a week or two at Christmas. It keeps you fresher.

How long do you practice?

It depends on what concerts are coming up. If I have concerts week after week after week with no break, those days are going to get longer, particularly, say, if I'm having a Sunday matinee with MSO and then Monday night I start a new concert with (the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra) - those weeks get long.


There may be days when I play three hours, four hours, and then go to a three-hour rehearsal. It can go to six, seven hours a day when it's busy like that.

If it's a pops concert or a concert that doesn't have anything particularly demanding for the bassoon, then it might only be, say, an hour or two a day (of) practice and then, of course, your two and a half, three hours for rehearsal (per) concert.

Do you have a day job?

No, never did.

The Chamber Players kind of took the place of that before I was married particularly where I had to manage my own health care and that sort of thing, (such as) trying to get a mortgage.

Through the Chamber Players, for 15 years, I ran a music program in 12 to 14 nursing homes for residents who were too ill to go to group activities. They still needed to meet the minimum stimulation requirement by the State of Maryland. So I ran a program that was developed by the state department of health where I would go room to room to these residents who were unable to get out and I would play or sing music for them.

Compare playing in the MSO and under Elizabeth Schulze's baton to playing with other orchestras and conductors.

Playing with the MSO in general, we have that wonderful hall and that wonderful (acoustical) shell. So that is something that stands out musically as being very distinctive for this orchestra.

In terms of Elizabeth, she's been there 10 years now. (This is her 11th season.) We have, as an orchestra, really learned to work well together. We've learned a lot about her vision and her expectations and the way she likes to phrase things and the type of music she likes to present.

I think we've kind of reached a stride here, which is wonderful because we can communicate now on a different level - because it's a mature relationship the orchestra has with her. And that's very exciting, because we're making music on a different level now.

It's a wonderful opportunity for me, personally, to grow as a musician, because we are now refining and speaking through the music. That's a challenge and it's a joy and it's exciting to make music at that level.

I think she enjoys that part of it, too. She comes back after every concert and mentions what she thought went well, what she was happy with, congratulates us and thanks us for bringing our artistry to the ensemble. Most conductors don't do that. They don't bother to talk to you personally. That's very unusual, and it speaks to the relationship that the orchestra has with her.

... (In) the wind (section), we are very good friends. Across those two rows, everyone knows everyone else well and we have long-term friendships, personally as well as musically. And I guess because so many of us travel, when we do come out for concerts, a lot of us do stay over, so we do get a chance to socialize more. And that, I think, is part of what has made the orchestra so cohesive musically ... because we do have that time personally.

Elizabeth's there too and she's accessible. She is not full of airs and full of so much ego that you can't communicate with her. That's not what's happening at all. We all work together.

Who's your favorite composer?

I like almost everything that Aaron Copland ever wrote. It is so American. It's so iconic. You can only hear two or three notes, and you know it's Aaron Copland. Kind of our national identity.

Do you have a favorite composition?

I guess I would say my favorite composition for orchestra, from the viewpoint of a bassoonist, would be the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra. I like that piece because everybody gets a chance ... to play something that's characteristic to their instrument. And then the whole orchestra is another big instrument. And there (are) so many chances to have different colors and timbres and rhythms. To me, it's a piece that has it all.

What kinds of music do you listen to in your leisure time?

I listen to a lot of New Orleans rhythm and blues. My husband's from New Orleans.

What's the last CD you bought?

I guess I bought the cello concerto that Lukasz is playing. (MSO Principal Cellist Lukasz Szyrner is the featured soloist on Dmitri Shostakovich's Violincello Concerto No. 1 at the November MasterWorks concerts.)

I listen to the satellite dish mostly for popular stuff. The station we listen to mostly is called Gumbo, 'cause it is the New Orleans stuff.

What's your favorite "nonclassical" piece of music?

One of my favorites is (by) the King's Singers - a male choir - a capella. And, I don't think this is classical - "You Are the New Day." It's a love song.

Read a more about the Maryland Symphony Orchestra's concert by clicking here

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