The former principal double bass of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra offered some musical insights in our February 2011

February 2011

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This was first published in the February 2011 issue of The Strad

I give two pieces of advice to all my bass students. First, practise, practise, practise. (That only counts as one.) Second, listen to great cellists.

A section leader must know the music inside out and must also have courage, focus and good nerves.

The best piece of advice I ever had was from Fred Zimmermann at the Juilliard School. He told me to ‘get out there and play’ and not stick around for a diploma. When the principal bassist from Dallas, Robert Roe, came to the Juilliard looking for a player for his section, I auditioned for the job and got it.

A principal must be the contact person for the section when it comes to asking questions of a conductor. It’s a drag for a maestro when questions come popping up from all over.  

Playing in an orchestra isn’t any different to any other job: there’s a hierarchy of responsibility. You might not like what the boss is doing, but they’re the boss, whether they are the conductor or the section leader. You may be able to discuss some differences, but the boss has the final say.

In terms of audience perception, the bass is still considered the foundation of the orchestra, rather than a solo instrument. But within the music business, perceptions have changed — it is now accepted much more as a solo instrument, in jazz as well as classical circles.

This was first published in the February 2011 issue of The Strad

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