If you aren't familiar with these three wonderful bassoonists, click on those links and learn about their work!
For the duration of this post:
GV = Giorgio Versiglia, AeR = Andante e Rondo
I have been playing on GV's style of reeds exclusively for the past month. It has been wonderful and proven to me that this is an effective and efficient style of reedmaking. I have also learned that applying GV's principles to your current shape and profile will also yield positive results. I have used the AeR tools that are specific to the GV process but there are also fundamental principals which can be applied to the materials you currently use. I have found these principles to be quite different from how I have made reeds previously. Thus far in my experience, applying those principles to my own GSP have vastly improved my reed quality with a shorter finishing time.
Photo credit: Eryn Oft
What you need:
Gouged, shaped, profiled cane - GV's cane from AeR - or any that you already have. I have applied GV's style to Reiger 1, Rieger 1A, Fox 1, and Fox 3, all with Gonzalez tube cane, with excellent results. I have also used AeR cane (with GV's specific shape and profile) which I also highly recommend.
24 gauge soft brass wire - this link will take you to the specific wire used by GV. I have been using my preexisting stock of 24-gauge wire which you will see in my images and videos.
GV Style Reedmaking: Day 1 - Forming Tube from GSP - YouTube
1. Begin by beveling the entire length of the tube. Using the diamond flat file, held vertically, file in an up-and-down motion ensuring you do not over bevel (creating gaps on the side of tube) but adequately removing any angle which would prevent the tube from sealing.
Photo credit: Eryn Oft
2. Clip one side of the tube 27 mm from collar to butt. GV clips the tube one half at a time. Clipping the tube at once risks cracking into the blade.
3. Fold the cane.
4. Clip the opposite side of tube to match the length. You may still need to sand the butt of the tube to make it perfectly even. Wait to sand until after the reed has been wrapped.
You are looking at my personal notes from the workshop.
5. Using 24 gauge, soft brass wire, wrap the the top wire 3x's. Position the wire 32 mm from the fold. Measure from the fold to the top of the wire. You will twist the wire a few times but not tighten all the way to the cane. You will pull the wire as tight as possible but leave a gap from the twist to the cane. Watch the video because this sounds basic but there is a bit of nuance.
6. Subdividing the tube into 3 sections, cut 2 scores in the outer sections. This can be done with an exacto knife or traditional reed knife. You will run the knife up into the tube allowing the score to travel to the first wire but your knife will not need to travel all the way to top wire. If you have placed the top wire tight enough, the score will not travel into the blade.
7. Insert forming mandrel by twisting the reed onto the mandrel. I highly recommend purchasing the AeR forming mandrel (and other tools) which are very reasonably priced and will provide you the best results for this process. Press the tube around the mandrel using your fingers (not crimping with pliers).
Photo credit: Eryn Oft
Photo credit: Eryn Oft
8. Remove the reed from the forming mandrel, press tube back together, cut 2 more scores into the middle section in the same manner as before. You will now have 6 scores approximately 1 mm apart.
9. Place reed on holding mandrel by twisting the reed down to the marked line (if you are using the AeR holding mandrel). Wrap the bottom wire 3X's, placing it 6 mm from the butt. Measure 6 mm from the butt to the bottom of the wire.
There may be error regarding whether to tighten down the top wire at the end of the first day or not. Eryn's notes (and pic) show a top wire that is tightened down. My notes were different.
GV Style Reedmaking: Day 2 - Finished blank - YouTube
1. Now that the cane is fully dry, you can tighten down the wires. If you are using the AeR holding mandrel, keep tightening the bottom wire until the reed sits 8 - 10 mm above the marked line. In my experience with these reeds, this can be almost impossible to do without breaking the wire that I am currently using. I believe GV's wire might be of a slightly harder quality that allows him to keep pulling. My 24 gauge wire has almost always broken at this step. Do your best!
2. Wrap with cotton thread and Titebond II wood glue. I have been using my typical nylon thread with Duco cement which will not alter the results but it will narrow the tube as it dries. As Eryn mentions in her video, the Titebond glue takes longer to dry and becomes tacky when soaked in water even after the initial drying of the glue. I noticed that for the reeds tied with cotton/wood glue, I only soak/wet the blade and avoid the tube/wrap getting wet as much as possible. In general, I am soaking these reeds for only a fraction of the time as compared to how much soaking I have done in the past.
*Every stage of the GV process requires very little soaking:
GSP cane before forming the tube, soak only a few minutes.
Placing the blank on the profiler can be done dry.
Working on the reed needs just a few dips of the blade, leaving the tube completely dry through the finishing process.
Playing on the reed can almost be done completely dry (especially impressive as I live in the mountain west at 4,800 feet). Dipping the blade into water and then letting it sit for a minute is sufficient preparation for playing.
3. Place blank on the AeR tip profiler to finish and it will be ready to play requiring, if any, only minor adjustments. Pictured below is the tip profile created by the AeR profiling machine using template #7002.
*I have adjusted and am using my Rimple tip profiler (adjusted to leave on more cane than my previous setting) to create a ready-to-play reed. Not the same shape of profile as the AeR but the process is still successful. However, I fully intend to purchase the AeR tip profiler in the future.
Andate e Rondo Tip Profiler template #7002
4. Ream the tube for a perfect bocal fit. I highly recommend the AeR reamer! It is by far my favorite reamer to date (Fox, Riegers, Miller 2X wet/dry). In addition to a clean/consistent cut, the reamer has a stop that can be adjusted with an Allen wrench for a precise ream every time. If you use the AeR tip profiler be sure you do not ream the reed prior to tip profiling as this may cause the reed to slide around on the mandrel and create an uneven tip.
The clippers used by GV and sold on AeR website, as indicated above, are from a Japanese maker.
Check back next week for detailed information on how to hand finish this reed style.
Giorgio will be teaching a reedmaking workshop in August.
We are truly fortunate to have members of the Double Reed community who care enough about the progress of all to ask hard questions, share the tough moments, and take an honest look at the challenges we all face in a thoughtful, nurturing, and positive forum.
We all know exactly who Benjamin Kamins is and, while there are many ways to describe his contributions and legacy to our community, I would personally describe him as the gentle force behind one of the winning-est studios in the country currently.* National auditions, competitions – his students win with a stunning amount of frequency.
*Completely anecdotal statement, no actual footwork completed to prove this statement.
I have observed masterclasses led by Mr. Kamins, reed making workshops, even auditioned for his studio way back in 1999. I've seen him perform, listened to his albums, and took advantage of an opportunity to pick his brain about DMA programs when he randomly sat next to me at a MQVC concert He’s unfailingly kind, indefatigably positive, and intimately aware and wise regarding every aspect of this crazy bassoon career.
“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
I want to focus on a few as they relate to my own much needed, mid-career catharsis.
1 - Regarding winning his first job at the age of 19, he said, “I got lucky.”
2 - Regarding his career moving forward from that point, summarizing audition wins and losses, “I still felt like a failure in my career into my mid-40’s.”
3 – Trying to win the principal bassoon spot in the "God Philharmonic” – which he didn’t achieve – and learning instead to bloom where he had been planted in Houston.
The honesty and perspective with which Mr. Kamins speaks is a salve to the mid-career musician soul. It sparks reflection on subjects we don’t talk about nearly enough and no amount of mentoring ever makes easier. The idea that you can work your entire professional life as a musician and still feel like you haven’t accomplished your dream, you haven’t gotten “there,” which Mr. Kamins was quick to declare, it doesn’t exist.
We spend so much of our energy looking at the careers of a few great performers/pedagogues and think, I want to get “there.” In pursuit of “there” we push ourselves through auditions, jobs, moves, endless hours of practice, reed-making, networking. For those who “Do The Work” with discipline and consistency, a career is built along the way which, for many, may not look anything like the “there” they had imagined for themselves.
I have been really fortunate as a working musician my entire adult life even with a two year mom-sabbatical. I have been a military musician, a salaried orchestral musician, touring chamber musician, founder and board member of a non-profit, adjunct/visiting/tenure-track professor, and, and, and…
…but I still fight that little voice that pokes at me, “Too bad you never won principal bassoon of the God Philharmonic.”
Which is one of the reasons I found myself at the Seattle Symphony associate principal audition in March. I was sent on my way after five excerpts in the prelim round. I haven’t advanced out of prelims since the Naples audition...whenever that was...maybe c. 2014...I mean, YEARS AGO. My career success rate for auditions hovers around 10%. Despite this, my transition into higher education has placed me in a position that easily provides the final resting place for me professionally.
Except, this year, ensconced in my tenure process, my mind keeps running the following script over and over:
This is it!
This is it!
This is it!
THIS IS IT!
This is it?
I’m here for how many more years?
I am going to be here for basically the next 30 years of my life?
Wait a second.
This is new.
Never done this before.
ENTER: doubt, second-guessing, but “what if” mind-set, plans to keep taking auditions.
4 – "While you still have the fire in the belly...and you still have the dream...you should keep going and working toward that dream." How long do you push, when do you settle down? We really do have permission to do both, my friends! Imagine that!
5 - "Just do the work! It's the only thing we have!" and I would add, find a way to have joy in that work. You have to love the process of discovery and improvement and you absolutely have to love reed making.
It steels the heart to hear a masterful player and teacher like Benjamin Kamins share his experiences with the doubts we all feel and the hopes to which we all hold.
The work of learning how to live in peace and gratitudewhile simultaneously pushing forward to be your best self, your best bassoonist is not easy! Many of us get folded up into the dark corners of our brains and take time away from seeing the beauty of the lives we have created.
We have been taught, explicitly and passively, that some jobs, some careers, are just better or more impressive than others. I'm not sure this has come from a point of malice but we have all listened to bitter, cynical musicians deplore lost auditions and missed opportunities - holding to the thought that to be “there” is better than to be “here.” But let's follow Mr. Kamin's lead to teach and share a new message: celebration of the careers we DO achieve.
Thanks Double Reed Dish for creating a space for a new conversation among musicians!
Cheers for celebrating the many professional bassoonists who wake up each day to perform and teach in their communities, the local Master Bassoonists! How fortunate we all are! May we never diminish our achievements by calling a career a failure because it looks different from the careers of others or different from what we set out to do at the inception of this journey!
Cheers for bassoon gratitude and a community that is working to tell the story of success and abundance in every corner of our bassoon world.
"Sometimes you do things in life just to figure out what you don't want to do in life." - My Dad
The same principle can obviously be applied to trying bassoons in the pursuit of finding The One.
All of the instruments I have trialed have strengths and weaknesses. For the price you would pay for each of them, my feeling is that they are all priced quite reasonably and all sit in the $17,000 - $24,000 range.
The Moosmann 222-CL, Leitzinger Model II, and Kronwalt are all solid instruments. If you are in the market for a bassoon be sure to try these bassoons - they have a lot to offer! However, they are not right for me and the goals I have set for this process. They are also all thick wall bassoons.
This has been the most important realization I have made during this process: The instrument I need for the sound I desire and the type of playing I do falls within the capabilities of a "thin wall" instrument: the Yamaha 811 & 821 and the Moosmann 150E have presented as the best options for my needs.
Thin wall bassoons are typically associated or modeled after the much sought after Heckel pre-war sound. Not every manufacturer carries or even identifies with thin or thick wall bassoons. Also, these identifiers are relative and vary with regard to actual measurements. However, there are clear differences in how these instruments play - whether the manufacturer chooses to identify them as thick/thin or not.
The sound varies depending on the thickness of the wood that surrounds the bore
A bassoon with walls of regular thickness has a rich sound, with a high degree of flexibility that can easily produce sound with a soloistic, song-like and expressive quality. More power is required when playing a bassoon made with heavy, thick walls, but its sound has a uniquely solemn, dark quality, and is particularly suited to orchestral performances.
Standard wall thickness YFG-811 (left), and thick wall YFG-812 (right)
What on EARTH does this word mean to bassoonists and why do we use it to describe the abilities of instruments that are very different from each other?
Flexibility of pitch
Flexibility of sound
Here is what I have learned after reading and re-reading descriptions of these instruments by the manufacturers, vendors, and players then pairing those thoughts with my own experience playing these instruments and chatting with other players as well:
Flexibility in a bassoon is the ability of the instrument to make changes in pitch with ease. For example, in chamber music, if the player wants to match quickly to another's tendency, can the pitch be adjusted quickly and with ease. It does not refer to the overall pitch being unstable.
Flexibility also refers to the instrument's ability to play in different timbres (bright or dark) across all ranges and dynamics.
When you read manufacturer's descriptions they use flexibility to describe both thick and thin wall instruments. This is partly why it's confusing to a buyer, novice or experienced.
I think these concepts have been elusive in my own understanding because I play a Fox 601, thick wall bassoon, and I do not find it flexible in these ways. Concepts of flexibility are foreign (even confusing) to me because I haven't experienced it in 10 years of playing on a thick wall instrument. The thick wall models are built for power, projection - read every instrument description from every manufacturer for a thick wall instrument - and consistency (wherever it may lay, it's not budging), a bassoon built for the large orchestra.
From the Fox website, notice what word is missing from this description of the 601 model:
THE FOX MODEL 601 WAS FIRST OFFERED BY FOX PRODUCTS IN 1991. DESIGNED TO PROJECT A LARGE, DARK TONE TO MEET THE NEEDS OF SOLOISTS AND ORCHESTRAL PLAYERS, IT WAS THE FIRST FOX DESIGN WITH THICKER WALLS AND LARGER TONE HOLES. IN ADDITION, IT HAS EXTRA LENGTH IN BOTH THE BASS AND WING JOINTS TO PRODUCE AN EVEN GREATER DEPTH OF SOUND AND MORE POWERFUL LOW REGISTER.
Whereas thin wall instruments are flexible and capable of projection through clarity of tone rather than through power. I would describe the word power as quantity and speed of air used to create volume. They also have flexibility of pitch (from what I have now experienced) and flexibility of sound. It's a very different approach to building and playing an instrument.
As I reflect upon my own playing and use of a thick-wall instrument, I realize now how I landed upon a 601 as my best choice 10 years ago and why I now want something drastically different. For a young bassoonist who wants a huge sound, the 601 (and any thick wall bassoon) is a total blast to play! Performing with the Chinook Winds quintet, laying foundation for 4 powerhouse solo players, my 601 was fantastic! Prior to that, playing in Army bands, free-lancing, graduate school; again, the sheer power available to me was perfection! I listen back to all my recordings from that time period and I love what I hear. My sound, my style of playing make sense in context.
Then everything changed...
I had a major back surgery that required my abdomen to be cut vertically for 8 inches. My recovery was long and my playing as a result has changed. I feel this in how I generate vibrato across all ranges, how much physical work is required to project into a hall and in the work required to create tapers that can compete with the most nuanced clarinet player. I also recognize the physical demands required by a thick wall instrument have become more challenging simply because I'm older. I have battled 4 back surgeries in addition to neck and shoulder issues.
As I have moved from full-time performance into higher education, I do more solo playing now. My quintet dynamic has also changed from full-time work with 4 young, powerhouse players. Now playing in a university faculty quintet means very intermittent periods of rehearsal and performance - some semesters there is almost none. The change in personalities and playing style has required me to be a very different player.
Currently, I play principal only with a community orchestra (Idaho Falls Symphony) rather than with salaried/tenured regional orchestras (Great Falls, Billings). This requires more delicacy and (here it comes) flexibility to blend well and provide what is needed. I have also been playing second bassoon consistently for 3 seasons now (second to a Heckel 6000) - something I have never done before and an entirely different skill set!
All of this explains why I have easily gravitated towards the thin-wall models during this process.
There is however one caveat.
In my last blog post, I stated the desire to have an instrument that could handle a huge sound when needed - something I felt the 6000 Heckel I played on couldn't quite deliver (of course I could be wrong). I hear the greatest potential for this very specific ability in the Yamaha models. The Moosmann 150E is lovely to play, so easy in the bottom octave, so stable and responsive in the top octave - really impressive! But I also hear, and have received confirmation from my oboe colleague, that the Moosmann doesn't push out like my Fox does and it was missed in performance.
Many thanks to Justin Miller and Midwest Musical Imports, I have been permitted to keep the Yamaha 821 and Moosmann 150EDLX for an extra long trial. I am taking them to Seattle for a 7-day residency with Trio de Bois and a concert with the Ensign Symphony and Chorus onstage at Benaroya Hall. This next week will reveal a lot about what these instrument can offer and how they will/will not meet the goals I have set for this process.
In addition, as I have gained even greater clarity and wisdom from this process, I am setting up trials on a few more bassoons before I make a final decision: Fox 460, Puchner 6000, maybe a Fox 680. I am trying to find a newer Fox 201 and any and all Heckels - both are really hard to come by. I was on the waitlist for a Benson Bell but, not surprising, it was purchased before it got to me.
The journey continues! Be sure to check out my YT channel for more comparison videos of instruments.
First, I have to give a HUGE thank you to everyone who has left comments, sent messages and emails to offer insight, help, even potential instruments for sale as I have shared my videos. THANK YOU! I really appreciate the feedback - keep it coming!
A culmination of several events over the past 6 months has pushed me into the market for a new bassoon. Only about 10 days into the process, I have already learned so much. I'm always peeking at the cost of bassoons - don't we all? And who doesn't enjoy the vendor hall play-testing at various conferences? However, the reality of how much the market has changed since I purchased my Fox 601 in 2009 has been humbling.
Here are my initial thoughts:
playing a bassoon for 10 -15 minutes in a vendor hall is not how you trial a bassoon. It's a good place to start but shouldn't be the singular litmus for a $25,000+ purchase.
it's concerning to me how much a person can spend on a fairly mediocre instrument.
this is a highly subjective process filled with colorful adjectives, intangible concepts, and unquantifiable components of value.
enlist the help of people you trust.
everyone has an opinion! This isn't a bad thing. Absorbing years of experience, wisdom, and insight from others can afford you the data needed to distillate meaningful axioms for the process.
it can also help you filter the dearth of well-intentioned, "I love my bassoon, so you should buy the same!" It's deeply personal for each of us and when we fall in love, we just want others to have that same joy!
The last few days playing a Leitzinger and a Yamaha (videos to come) have allowed me to concisely articulate what I want in a new bassoon:
I want an instrument that keeps all the things I love about my current instrument, improve upon the shortcomings I currently struggle with, while not introducing new complications.
The result of this clarity has quickly led me to a better understanding of how and why bassoonists keep inching up their budget. It is easy to see, at this early point, how bassoons in the $20K-$30K price range are really quite similar. It becomes more a question of an exchange of challenges rather than a question of wholesale superiority.
The Leitzinger and Yamaha bassoons are fine instruments but they both have concerning flaws. They have features that would resolve some of my concerns but new ones I flat-out DO NOT want to deal with whilst breaking in a brand new bassoon.
Which reminds me: for many years I have cautioned students about buying brand new because we all know it will take at least 12 mos for the bassoon to finally start settling and opening up. Which mean the instrument you try-and-buy will not be the instrument you end up with. Now, if what you try-and-buy is something you immediately love, rational thought and experience dictate that most likely it will only get better. Conversely, if there are significant concerns, who knows? They could get better or they could simply remain.
Back to me and my needs ("Enough about you, let's talk about me!").
What do I LOVE about my instrument:
apparently I love my keywork! I didn't think it was that important to me but playing on bassoons with a few less keys, rollers, and different placement quickly made me realize that I want those details to remain on a new instrument OR I need to be prepared to pay for custom work after purchase.
I did this when I bought my Fox 601 with Keith Bowen and it was money well spent. Also, really quite affordable to make changes to keywork.
I like the option to play with a HUGE, full sound that doesn't start to split or just cave in on itself.
What does that mean? See comment about adjectives, intangible and unquantifiable aspects of a bassoon. All I can is that I played a gorgeous 6000 series Heckle this weekend that was absolutely marvelous but was never going to play with the huge sound that I have used on my own instrument especially in chamber and solo performances.
What specifically do I want in a "new" instrument:
I want stunning tapers! No, that's not about my reeds. My reeds can taper. I want a taper that doesn't turn me inside out in the process. The Leitzinger Model II has that taper - WOW! It keeps the sound spinning without the urge to tragically cut out right before that beautiful moment when sound dissolves into silence - think: clarinet. I want that!
I HAVE TO HAVE a responsive and in-tune (as much as possible) top octave. The 6000 Heckel I had the great fortune to play this weekend had the free-est, most in tune, responsive top octave I have ever experienced. There simply was no fight! They spoke, they were in tune, they moved easily into the next note.
Nuttty core to every note. Capable of a full tone no matter how short you play. This is very much the player but also very much the ability of the instrument, in my opinion. Any master player can make almost any instrument sound pretty awesome. But I am convinced there are also master instruments that, when paired with a master player, well, *MAGIC.* I heard it at Meg Quigley from multiple bassoonists. I heard it from all the teachers with whom I studied. In my life as a Wild West Bassoonist I don't hear it and likely I'm the one who needs to be creating it for my students and the ensembles in which I perform. I'm failing them.
That's my current list of needs from my next instrument.
ability to manage a huge sounds
brilliant top octave
Really, is that too much to ask?
This is also way my budget has grown in the past 10 days. I'm moving from my initial budget of $20K-$30K into the next bracket and wondering: what can $35,000 get me?
...if it were an air freshener, that's what it would smell like around the BYU-Idaho bassoon studio. Two students have purchased new bassoons with one more well on the way towards a purchase.
I couldn't be happier watching these students make a huge commitment, manage a challenging process, and secure beautiful instruments that will bring them joy for many years to come.
It has also prompted me to get more organized about presenting them with the resources they need to consider, where to go, and how to budget for this process.
Buying a bassoon is a lengthy but exciting process. It's best not to rush, playing on many bassoons will assist you in making the best decision. When trialing a bassoon, be sure you are scheduled for rehearsals, a lesson or listening session with a teacher/mentor/colleague, and have access to a recital/concert hall. It has been recommended by many to have another bassoonist play your bassoon and the one you are trialing while you listen from a distance. This may not always be possible which is why it's important to have a teacher/mentor/colleague whose ear and opinion you trust. You should also consider recording side-by-side comparisons to further assist you in hearing differences. In addition to the cost of the instrument, you should also budget for:
shipping minimum of $50 each way but can climb to $150
repair work typically starts at $150 from your trusted local technician (if you are fortunate to have one) for very basic maintenance
even if the instrument doesn't need "repair" always have the bassoon you are trialing checked by a technician for bore damage or other fatal flaws
I have purchased three bassoons in my career. Two were purchased via the trial and comparison process. My first was a Fox 222D and, compared to my high school's instrument, it could have been a Heckel! With the exception of my first instrument, it was fairly obvious when I had found the right instrument when comparison testing. This seems to be a consistent statement among bassoonists - when you find the right one, you know it!
I currently play on a Fox 601 paired with Heckel bocals - three that I have progressed through since 2014: CDE, BD1N, VCD0. I have been very satisfied with my set up thus far in my career. But that nagging question haunts me: can I capture the ever elusive Heckel sound which is so desired and successful in national orchestral auditions? Or will I just sound like me no matter what I play on? Having played a few Heckels this year, a 6000 and the brand new 16000, I suspect that might be my challenge. Granted I played both of those instruments for a combined total of 10 minutes - that's not a trial by any definition.
Much has been said/claimed about the great and mysterious Heckel sound. Check out this enlightening conversation surrounding the question I posted on Bassoonists United. It received great responses from well known players in the U.S. and Europe. Not sure it solved my query but it gave me a lot to contemplate.
Genuine question for the bassoon hive mind: who has won a full-time, salaried orchestral gig playing on a Fox? I'm not interested in bashing makers - I own a Fox and love it. I also love hearing pros playing on Heckels. I am genuinely curious about the elusive Fox vs. Heckel sound in an audition context.
Hans Peter FronbergJessi Vandagriff I do not know, but it would be possible, she plays a 240 for her outdoor concerts at Deer Valley. You could always ask, she has a Facebook account
Lori Wike Close! (It was a 220, not a 240). I won my firstjob (1 yr position with Louisville) when I was 20 on my 220. And a year or two before that I was runner up for 2nd in Rochester Phil on that horn. I play a late 6000 series Heckel now though I do in fact play on my 220 for many summer season outdoor concerts. I sound almost, but not quite, like myself on the 220.
I know Andy Gott won Virginia on his Fox --I think a 201--not sure about St Louis. And Peter Kolkay won the Concert Artists Guild competition on his 601.
Vincent Ellin In the day that Bob won the job no one playedaFox though....
Trent Jacobs Yes but the question is who has actually wonajob playing afox bassoon. Not who won ajob and then switch to playing afox bassoon after.
Vincent Ellin I know Trent, but I think what you are playing at the moment is far less of a factor then it used to be....aPuchner is being played in Vienna( and the audition was wonona Puchner), and Foxes being used in Europe....whowould of thunk of that!!!
Trent Jacobs Yes but in Europe they're much more flexible with the kind of sound and the way of playing I think. It's much more common to actually see puchner and fox being used by lots of players. Even wolf is more popular in Europe than in the United States. Honestly I have not ever heard of anyone in winning a major job in the US on anything other than a Heckel bassoon. It's just the way things are right now.
Trent Jacobs I think the audition process in Europe is also considerably different than in America but I could be wrong
Jason ArtzTrent Jacobs It might be a chicken and egg thing. People think you need a Heckel to win a big job, so serious bassoonists in the US buy them, and from that group come a lot of the audition winners.
I’d think fewer musicians (and people in general) can afford Heckels in Europe.
Good question, though - interesting to think about.
Vincent Ellin Well I won an audition for Marlboro in 1973 onan early Fox. Sol Schoenbach was very skeptical about it but after my first summer there....he phoned Alan Fox and told him that he was convinced that someone could make great music with them....although I did later switch to a Heckel for a long time. I was also the runner-up for 2nd bassoon in the New York Philharmonic in 1971 with a Fox.....although I admit Lenny Hindell won the position.....What I'm trying to say is if they like your playing it really doesn't matter what you play.....you can always change if it is a concern.
Izabela MusiałJason Artz here in UK people love Heckels, but also orchestras sound differently than in any other European country. For long time bassoonists used French system bassoons here. Some bassoonists own more than just one Heckel, and they just hire them out, or take the second one on tour. Yes, they love Heckels, but one of my teachers (Principal at the Royal Opera House, Andrea di Flammineis) always says that your sound depends on what you have in your head, and he sounds absolutely fantastic and he has his own sound when he takes my Renard 240 (he plays on Heckel, not sure what series exactly).Izabela Musiał Also, it’s funny how people sometimes forget that as much as good instrument is helpful it won’t do the jobuntil you practise! Lots of students have better instrument than him - or at least that’s what he’s saying, and he always puts lots of attention to the quality of sound and different colours. For him it doesn’t matter what instrument you have, as long as it matches the section etc.
Vincent Ellin I changed from a Heckel to a Fox. Frank Marcus said at a distance there is little difference (I'd say the Foxes play a little lighter which is not a bad thing) John Miller, Bob Williams, Arlen Fast, Matheus Racz, Simon van Holen(just his Contra)and Hans Agreda (sp???) all play Foxes BTW.
Trent Jacobs Did any single one of those people actually win any of their jobs with their Fox bassoons?
Jason ArtzTrent Jacobs I think strong, talented players like those could have won their jobs on aFox or Heckel.
Jonathan Zepp There are a number of players who have won their jobs on Foxes, Puchners, Bells, etc., and then there are anumber that started on a Heckel and switched to another (the examples I know switched to Fox, Bell, or Yamaha), because they preferred it or because it made their job easier or both.
It's also common for people who win their jobs on a different horn than the rest of the section to be eventually persuaded to match for whatever reason.
Personally, I find the idea of a "Heckel sound" problematic and sort of just marketing material. I play a Heckel and love my horn, but there are also things it doesn't do as well as other brands' horns I've tried. There are aspects of the sound (evenness of scale tone color, timbre in the very low and high ranges, etc) which I love, but I don't think they're exclusive to the brand - they're a product of the way the instrument's been put together and the bocal/reeds/player as much as anything - and my horn's had enough work over its lifetime to certainly not match the sound fresh out of the factory.
Heckel is the defacto standard and makes generally fine instruments (this has not necessarily been true across all the serial number ranges, there has been significant variation over time), but they by no means have a monopoly on good tone or the best sound or performance characteristics.
Ben Opp A quick story on this. I studied briefly with the incredible Chris Millard. In an early lesson he played my Heckel 12 (which he described as one of the best instruments he ever played) and I played his favorite Bell. I sounded just like me on his instrument and he sounded just like him on my instrument. This underlined to me how the instrument is important but what the player is doing with it is really what matters.
Joshua Luty I know Mark Ortwein switched to a Yamaha thin wall for this very reason, previously playing a Moenig thick wall which supposedly didn't match the section.
Mark Ortwein I could match just fine with the Monnig, but I'm playing a Yamaha 812 (thick wall) but with a thin bell now. It's a great playing bassoon that really feels and sounds like my old Heckel (10k) but just more in tune and great keywork.
I'm not going to bog this down with a play-by-play list of events. It was a packed schedule filled with masterclasses and performances featuring a collection of the finest bassoonists in the United States - students, university/conservatory educators, and orchestral professionals. Instead, I'm going to attempt to capture how unexpectedly transformational this experience proved to be.
In a very last minute attempt to maximize my time in LA, I bought a ticket to see the LA Philharmonic for Thursday evening after my arrival. Realizing there would not be any other time to see them perform that weekend, this was wise. You do not want to miss any of the events given at MQVC.
My night at the LAPhil was rather unique in that John Adams was conducting and premiered Phillip Glass's latest work, Symphony No. 12. The best part for me was Tumblebird Contrails by young composer, Gabriella Smith. Upon my return from LA I immediately contacted her to discuss a commission. She is booked through 2021 - good for her!
George Sakakeeny masterclass - great to observe him working with students! His approach, in so many ways, resonates with what I have found to be true in my own career. Specifically his comments about being in the entertainment industry. Yes! As a musician you are in the business of selling tickets. If you want to compel audiences to spend as much as I did for the LAPhil (and even much less) you need to be offering an experience that starts with stunning music and builds from there.
UT-Austin Bassoon Ensemble performing at Friday night reception.
Panel discussion on Citizen Artists facilitated by John Steinmetz. MQVC is NOT joking around with their artists. Every event was a veritable "who's-who" of the bassoon world. Save me a few keystrokes and find more detail on their website.
This was a great discussion between the panel members. I especially appreciated the diverse careers represented in the panel. Spending my entire career in the "trenches" of audience development, outreach, remote/rural performances, and accessible programming; my passion for being an citizen-artist is simply how I have lived my life! To be a musician is to be part of a community - wherever that may land you.
Community Bassoon Band - this was a blast! I believe the final count was 76-80 bassoonists and it sounded pretty fantastic. Great arrangements and just a fun time to sit within the most expensive "forest" a person could imagine.
The afternoon/evening performances and competition rounds each day were filled with stunning playing! It was incredible to hear so many wildly accomplished bassoonists back-to-back. I was smitten with the gorgeous sounds/tone/colors I heard all weekend. Being a Wild West bassoonist has been a blast but it has also made me a very isolated bassoonist. I don't often have the opportunity to hear other professional bassoonists, specifically players that inspire me to contemplate and improve components of my playing.
I think this was what I most cherished about the MQVC: the constant, focused emphasis on great bassooning. It refreshed my ears and served as a crucial reminder of the great bassoon sound I love and work to achieve.
During the Saturday evening concert, I was especially touched by Dr. Stephanie Patterson's performance of Translations by Natalie Moller. It seems to me that Stephanie represents all the great hopes of the Meg Quigley organization: once a finalist herself, now an accomplished educator and performer AND devoted mom and wife. Her performance shared vulnerability among an audience that received and celebrated her musical offering.
I didn't expect to feel so...loved/enriched/enveloped by a "conference" and this is why Meg Quigley is so much more.
Sunday: The final day began with composer, Jenni Brandon, leading yoga followed by Stephanie Corwin giving a workshop in baroque performance practice and two wonderful masterclasses by Sue Heineman and Laura Najarian.
Trying to summarize the musical and professional insight these women shared wouldn't honor their words or the experience of the participants.
This was my first time attending MQVC and I intend to never miss it again. This is THE place to hear and interact with phenomenal bassoonists who share a strong sense of community. It did not escape notice that MQVC set out to inspire and enrich the "whole" bassoonist: yoga with Jenni Brandon, Alexander Technique with Ben Kamins, sessions for high school bassoonists AND their parents. Even the perhaps unintentional "spiritual" element to program rep; Eric Varner's presentation of Campostela, Jaqueline Wilson's performance of Katcina Dances, Stephanie Patterson's previously mentioned performance. Each of these combined to create an atmosphere that manifested: joy, safety, learning, artistry, professional abundance, and genuine interaction for the benefit of all.
Oh! I can't possibly forget to mention Janis McKay's performance of Andy Warhol sez...which required a last minute piano collaboration with a friend of John Steinmetz! Again, you had to be there to hear and believe how that obstacle was resolved to allow a wonderful performance by Janis.
So many special moments...
My heartfelt gratitude to the Meg Quigley Directors, team, and army of supporters, volunteers, vendors, and people making it all possible. This is an incredible opportunity and resource for bassoonists and if you are bassoonist, you should make it a priority to attend.
An institution believed in me enough to invite me into their compensation program until I'm 65 or deemed incompetent through formal review.
A department of music vetted me through a 6-month long process and determined that I had what it takes to prepare musicians for successful careers in music.
A group of well-established colleagues felt I would be a good person to work with for the next several decades.
Those all seem a little strangely worded but that's what it means to be given the opportunity to work in our field as an educator or performer. It's a commitment worth a lot of time and money to everyone involved.
A few words about my position: BYU-Idaho doesn't use a typical tenure track system. Their system is called CFS - Continued Faculty Status - which takes three years to complete. It is a teaching - not research - driven process. I'm encouraged/expected to complete my terminal degree and will be given the time to do so. In addition, BYU-Idaho is a university "without rank" which means that we de-emphasize formal titles and opt instead to address each other as Sister and Brother. This is also part of the culture of our faith as Latter-Day Saints. Some faculty adhere to this, others ask to be addressed as Dr/Professor.
My students call me Sister Crawford and when they graduate they call me Elizabeth.
I'm still trying to get someone to call me Your Highness, Queen of Bassooning. But no takers...yet.
How does it feel?
To capture the magnitude of securing a salaried position with medical, dental, vision, professional development support and retirement, I need to reflect on the long road that got me here.
Age 14 started teaching beginner piano to pay for lessons at Hochstein School of Music and later Eastman School of Music community education.
Age 15 started going to music camps and joined an "elite" youth orchestra.
Age 17 attended and graduated high school from Interlochen Arts Academy.
Worked various odd jobs in high school and college: ice cream girl at "Frosty's," camp counselor at Interlochen, janitor, Rite Aid, Boston Market, Resident Assistant in dorms, office assistant in Student Life, U.S. Army - which had it's own long list of non-musical duties
Went on active duty in the U.S. Army as a bandsman
Went off active duty
Stopped playing seriously, sold my bassoon for 3 years to try being a stay-at-home-mom
Went back to school for my masters degree with a graduate assistantship
Free-lanced for 3 years while in grad school and in the Army National Guard and took MANY orchestra auditions
Won a salaried orchestra gig and toured with an educational outreach quintet for 4 years
Won a visiting artist position in higher ed and taught in that position for 2 years
In my second year applied for and secured a permanent, CFS position
That's a long list and it's missing a lot of details.
This has NOT been a linear process and I'm not where I imagined myself when I was an undergrad at Manhattan School of Music.
Have you seen the movie/read the book, "Marley and Me?"
There's this great scene where Owen Wilson looks at his wife, Jennifer Aniston, and, upon reflecting on where they are in their lives, he asks, "Is this where you imagined us?"
She responds, "Isn't this better than what we imagined?"
(That might be a horribly inaccurate quote but that's how I remember it.)
I am not where I imagined myself!
I have been given so much more along this journey - much more than I would have given myself had I done only what I planned on.
I always tell my students,
Better to have a plan and depart from it than to have no plan at all.
In summary, I'm deeply and profoundly happy...and grateful, so grateful to so many mentors/friends/colleagues.
But those words don't even begin to capture the relief, excitement, realization of hopes, affirmation of hard work, return on investment, security, and continued progress that this "job" represents to me.
Several people congratulated me with the words, "You deserve this!" I've gotta admit, I don't think I deserve anything. But I do think I have earned this privilege...and will have to keep earning it while never forgetting all the work that got me here.
You don't set out to have a career. A career happens in all the little, day-to-day decisions you make as you meet the work of being a musician.
I am currently preparing for an audition and have applied for several other positions. When my contract ends July 2018 with BYU-Idaho I will have enjoyed 8 truly spectacular semesters in higher education at two different universities. There is no way for me to adequately summarize how much I have learned as an adjunct (University of Montana) and now full-time faculty member. My current position is Visiting Faculty = 1-year contract, renewable (up to) 2 times. I am in my second year and the position has gone permanent. I am currently in the application process for the new permanent position.
At this point in describing the current state of my employment to people, they say things like,
"Oh, I'm sure you'll get it!"
"You're a total shoe-in!"
"Who else would they hire?"
"You've already been working here, they won't choose someone new."
These are all well intended comments but, let's be honest, anyone who has spent a few years in this field knows that we are ALL replaceable. No matter how awesome you *think* you are in your little niche - bassoon - there is always someone else out there who can do what you do. ALWAYS.
Because I know this very well, I'm not leaving anything to chance. Thus, I find myself back on the market cruising the audition websites (checking these at least once a week), sending out resumes, CV's, cover letters, emails, working the network and hoping for the best.
This is also a GREAT opportunity to return to my ongoing series in which I document the process of preparing, taking, and hopefully winning auditions. (Click on the "audition" label in the left side bar to read the entire series.)
I gave some AWESOME advice in Part 20 of my series - read it!
Since "winning" my job at BYU-Idaho I have sent in materials for the following live auditions 2016 - present: Jacksonville - denied Las Vegas - denied Royal Scottish National Orchestra - denied Lyric Opera of Chicago - going to prelims in January 2018
I have applied for the following positions in higher education: University of Miami - Ohio: Visiting artist, no response, position filled U Central Florida: Visiting Artist, no response, but I believe it is currently on-going U of Florida: Tenure Track, submitted and waiting The Tianjan Juilliard School: submitted and waiting BYU-Idaho: Tenure track, submitted, first round interview completed
Here's my dilemma and a self-assessment of how my resume is probably received: I don't have a terminal degree. I have had a career as a performer but not in a top-tier orchestra (military bands, free-lance, chamber music, regional salaried orchestra). I would say I have had a solid career but not wildly impressive. Honestly, I'm impressed every day that I get to make a living with my bassoon but it's a wide spectrum when it comes to defining success in a very competitive field.
Applying for jobs in higher education is a gamble because applicants without a terminal degree are typically placed behind those who have finished their education. However, I am now in my third year teaching in higher education which may be compelling to some committees.
Then there are the orchestra gigs.
A salaried orchestra is going to get an excellent turn out for a bassoon audition. Based on my own experience, this can result in a pool of bassoon candidates 50+ strong with or without eliminating applicants based on their resume. The average applicant pool can be divided into three main categories of players:
out of school and free-lancing
out of school and currently employed as a full time performer/educator
Having sat on audition committees, I am always more interested in hearing musicians who are currently employed to play/teach their instrument full time. But, as I shared in Part 20, every panel has their own parameters - don't take it personally...don't take it personally...don't take it personally...keep repeating...
It is impossible to attend every audition when you have to maintain the job you are in. When the stars align and you can feasibly attend an audition but then get denied from a live audition, well, that's a tough email to receive. Especially if you know that you are in a limited contract and really need to keep moving forward. Don't take it personally, don't take it personally, don't take it personally...
I will admit that I took a rejection email personally in the spring of 2016 and sent off a less than friendly email to a PM/audition coordinator. That was the wrong move and I had to humble myself and apologize. We are now social media friends, so I think "we're good" but it was a really dumb thing to do - not professional behavior. Don't do it!
Full disclosure: the last time I made reeds from tube cane was c. 1998.
Why so long?
Neither Manhattan School of Music nor the University of Utah provided a reed-making room or machines. With copious amounts of moves, job changes, instrument purchases, LIFE, dropping several thousand dollars on a gouger and profiler was not a reality for me. I started using GSP cane full-time in 1999 and never seriously pursued going back to tube cane.
I occasionally peruse EBSCO for the latest bassoon doctoral dissertations, curious to see what academia is producing for our field. I found Dr. Schillinger's doctoral dissertation about the history of reed-making pedagogy and then learned it had been published as a book.
Click pic to order your copy!
This book is a PAGE-TURNER!
I know, I KNOW! You're thinking,
"It's about the history of teaching reed-making...sounds dry." Well, it's not!
Winter semester 2017 if I was talking, it was about this book (please forgive me students and colleagues). If I was reading, it was this book. If I was day-dreaming, it was about bassoonists from hundreds of years ago...and their tools...and probably their fashion, too.
Seriously, if you are a bassoonist, you have to own and read this book. It is truly fascinating, well written, and full of detailed historical examples, diagrams, etc.
I was also fortunate to hear Dr. Schillinger's lecture/presentation at IDRS 2017 about her unique process of cane selection, or perhaps better described as systematic cane discarding. As she explains much better than I, (listen to her interview on Double Reed Dish) discarding cane at each step of the process is an essential part of a successful reed-making discipline.
By the start of Fall semester 2017 I was extremely inspired to return to reed-making starting from tube cane.
It also helped that my proposal and design plans for rebuilding our reed room had been accepted and BYU-Idaho now holds one of the FINEST reed-making rooms I have yet seen at a university!
Having not worked with "machines" for almost 20 years, it was definitely a re-learning curve for me. Further complicated by machines that have been a bit neglected due to faculty turnover in my position at the university. You are looking at a Fox 1 straight shaper, Rieger folding shaper, a profiler, and an RDG gouger.
Working from left to right, you can see the *fun* I was having getting everything sorted out. My greatest challenge was simply being so many years out of practice with gouging, profiling, and shaping cane myself.
I will freely admit that by the end of this particular day pictured above, I was ready to say:Barton Cane or BUST! Damaging so many pieces of cane because of my own incompetence was sobering and reminded me that I was perfectly happy paying someone else to absorb all that loss.
HOWEVER, with Dr. Schillinger's wisdom ringing in my reeds and many wonderful finished reeds from my Barton Cane (I am really loving the Kristin Wolfe Jensen and Darrel Hale cane which I have reordered and continue to have great success) protecting me against any crises, I continued my odyssey!
Proceed from right to left in seeing the effects of adjusting the gouger to better pair with the profiler. I did NOT spend any more time on the far right piece.
I got the whole bassoon studio involved and it was an absolute JOY to see my students working hard in the reed room and having fun in weekly masterclass working the machines together!
Getting the gouger and profiled adjusted to work well with each other was not nearly as complicated as I thought it would be which boosted my confidence and the output of quality pieces. Shaping a TON of cane also honed my dusty skills very quickly!
Was there BLOOD? Yes!
Was there sweat? Yes!
Were there tears? NO! Really, it was a lot of fun this semeseter!
I'm happy to say, once everything got dialed in, the reeds I have been making are actually pretty great! I have one in my box right now that has made me a believer in this whole work-from-tube-cane adventure.
Am I going to abandon GSP? No...at least, not yet.
When I work from GSP my success rate is easily 90% or higher. Only when/if I can get tube cane from blank to finished at that rate will I walk away from GSP.