MUSIC, MONEY, SUCCESS & FAILURE – Part Two – who were your teachers and what did they teach you?

MUSIC, MONEY, SUCCESS & FAILURE  – Things I Keep Learning  From My Amazing Yet Weird Career
 Part Two – who were your teachers and what did they teach you?
We cite their accomplishments as if they were somehow our own and we often have a childlike parallelism, something along the lines of  “if my teacher plays in an orchestra, then I can too.”
Whatever the catalyst, their inspiration will be remembered in one incident or sensation. Your teachers are found everywhere, throughout your life.  Not all of them teach us good things.

Our preliminary worldview is determined by our teachers and for this reason alone, we need many teachers.  
A truly good teacher acts with respect towards students and remembers that we are equals. I loathe teachers who feel themselves superior and justify their abuse as a burden of necessity. You can learn from them but it’s always better to seek more those with higher humanity.  I’m serious about that.
Here is a rough list of the people who have taught me things.  I may have taught them things too.  I know that my students have helped and enlightened me.
My first great teacher was my high school band-leader and trumpeter Gary Hartley. Disciplined and compassionate, he worked our rag-tag high school concert band like a professional ensemble.  We are still friends.
At university, the great-even-then bassoonist Christopher Millard, with all the gravitas of his 22 years on earth, sagely told me when I was 16 years old at the University of British Columbia, that he thought I was probably too sensitive to sustain a career in music and that I wasn’t  “ready” to start learning the Bach cello suites. From this, I learned early to not rely entirely on the opinions of others.  Christopher also had the generosity to perform with me when I was his student… by then, I was 17 and he was 23 and I was about to leave for the Curtis Institute of Music.  Christopher also bought me borcht at the Russian deli after some of our lessons… when I tried to pay, he waved me away and told me to treat my future students.  From this, I did learn generosity.
When I was 17, I had a summer with Gerald Corey.  He taught me free of charge in return for babysitting and gave me 5 hour lessons.  From him, I learned of a type of meticulousness that was astoundingly appealing in terms of reed-making and phrasing.    Gerald Corey did not charge me for the summer of lessons, saying that since I had flown from BC to Ottawa, I had earned a discount.    From this, I learned about the pricelessness of professional generosity.  To be fair, musicians can only afford this type of generosity if supported by a very good job (Mr Corey was principal bassoon of the National Arts Centre Orchestra), but it is still something that we can aspire to at our level of possibility.
At the age of 18, I went to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia where I had two brilliant bassoon teachers, Bernard Garfield and Sol Schoenbach, in their 60’s and 70’s respectively.  These two tough, experienced older orchestra guys, supposedly raised in the dark ages of gender parity, believed in me and treated me with genuine dignity though I was just a skinny, scared Canadian forest girl, out of my element in the middle of Philadelphia but thrilled to my core to be there.
Mr Garfield told me that the real learning would start when I landed my first orchestral job.  Not “if”, but “when”.  Mr Garfield also showed me his personal technique exercises and actively encouraged me to invent my own, which I do to this day, actively encouraging my own students to do the same.  This is just a smart thing to do and I’m sure every teacher in history has done it, but it was fun and unforgettable with Mr Garfield.
Dr Schoenbach told me that professional orchestra was like advanced schooling and laughed when I worried aloud about succeeding in music. He told me to concentrate on the auditions, that my career was unavoidable.  When I landed my first job, he reminded me to form chamber groups immediately so that I could continue to grow.
He also said “save money every year so that you can move away from orchestra when you are ready for something more in music” and “when is your next recital” and “don’t get too caught up with boyfriends… first build the music and the rest will follow.”
Both of these teachers defended me when needed (oboe teacher John deLancie sometimes felt I needed extra tempering through adversity)  and pushed me out the door to face the world.  When I started my first job with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and when I felt doubt or anguish, I would call or write and they would counter with practical suggestions… good fingerings for that repeated “g” in Bolero, repertoire suggestions, strong, pragmatic encouragement to stay in the glorious world of music even when it got hard as hell.  From this, I learned that I could continue to trust some of my elders. We are still friends and even though Sol passed on 20 years ago, I still have all his letters and a painting by his artist wife, Bertha Schoenbach.  Here is a link to one of our lessons.
Many of my teachers were not official bassoon teachers and every colleague and stage partner has taught me… Alan Wu (homeless pianist),  Bertha Schoenbach (artist), Ted Baskin, (oboist of Montreal Symphony), Gary Russell (cellist, Montreal Symphony), Guy Few (trumpeter, pianist, pragmatist) Valdy (folk hero, musically expansive), Karel Roessingh (jazz pianist), Roger Norrington (conductor and baroque specialist), Nicholas McGegan, Fraser Jackson (ex-husband), Mathieu Lussier (composer, bassoon, brother from another family), John Steinmetz (bassoonist, composer, thinker).
We absorb the sensibilities and erudition of our teachers yet whoever lights the fire that makes you want to play music, and those who fan the flame thereafter, are the only ones who deserve to be called teachers.
If we perform, if we interact with the greater world, then we become teachers.  What kind of teacher are you?



MUSIC, MONEY, SUCCESS and FAILURE  – Things I Keep Learning  From My Amazing Yet Weird Career

Part One –  how long did it take you to learn that concerto?

After my most recent concerto concert on October 11, 2017, a bright-eyed student asked me how long it took me to learn the challenging and beautiful Apollo X concerto for bassoon, strings and percussion, written for me by Paul Frehner.

Second performance of Apollo X
photo by Bo Huang photography

I was delighted that he had a question, so I blinked and replied, but really, I had answers for so many more questions. Really specific answers to specific (and unasked) questions.  But how to answer this one innocent question… how long to learn a unique concerto?

I wanted to take the microphone, call for silence and announce that multiple lifetimes go into learning any concerto, that life interjects so many unknowns there is not ever a straight, tidy continuum, and that we are never learning only one concerto, except maybe in school.  Even on this concert, we also gave the Canadian premieres of Patricia Morehead’s poly-modal, ornate Come Dance With Me The Dance Of Life, Bernard Garfield’s beloved Soliloquy arranged for strings and Mathieu Lussier’s painfully lovely Song of Love and Sorrow.

Composer Paul Frehner conducts Apollo X with NMJ and Out Of This World Orchestra
photo by Bo Huang photography


Composer Patricia Moreland after Canadian premiere of Come Dance With Me
photo by Bo Huang photography

This month, I had 9 other concerts and 13 rehearsals (two of which I missed due to FOOD POISONING)and I prepared 50+ other pieces of music, the shortest of which was one minute (Flight of the Bumblebee) and the longest of which was about an hour (Das Lied von der Erde).  So not much time for last-minute preparation.

In my world, planning is always key yet plans usually change.  If the composer delivers a concerto the day before I record it (as in Sicilian Proverbs on our Canadian Concerto Project Vol I CD), then I learn it in one day and record it the next… if I get it one week before the premiere, as in the second movement of Silver Angel, but I know in advance that this concerto is going to go to high F# on the top of the treble clef staff, then I practice my scales to the stratosphere and then I learn the concerto in one week when the music is actually in my hand.  If my Dad has multiple strokes two days before I premiere a concerto, as in the case of my first performance of Apollo X in 2016, then I wonder, have I “learned” this well enough not to be shaken? And when I played the Mozart concerto multiple times as a student and young professional, and changed the cadenzas every time, how long did that concerto take me to learn? Even when the concertos are “learned”, sometimes an opportunity arises to play something that you haven’t rehearsed for a couple of years.  And in any event, the goal is to perform… learning is implicit and ongoing as skills and perception increase. So it takes not only time, but a lifetime of experience to learn any concerto or great work of music.

I would love to be surprised by other questions from students and interested audience members, but maybe they are too polite to ask.  I have to hustle to pack up the merch, music, bassoon and  hall after a show, but we can always talk while I work.  Here are just a few examples in no particular order of importance.  Of course I won’t have or give answers to all of them yet I still hope that these questions and more will get answered.  And anyone who loves classical music might want to think about the practical elements that go into making it happen.

How much does it cost to self-present a concerto concert?
How long does it take to commission a new concerto?
How do you pay for a commission a new concerto?
How do you approach a composer to ask for a piece?
Do composers ever approach you?
Do composers ever just write a piece and give it to you?
How do I get the music for this concerto that you just played?  Would it make sense to ask the composer who is also at the concert and who just conducted his own piece? Could you introduce me? Could I get his autograph?
How do you know how much to pay composers and musicians?
How do you raise the money? Do ticket sales cover your costs? How much does it cost you to give out free tickets?
Do you make your own programs and posters?  How much does it cost?
How do you sell your tickets online?
How do you manage credit card payments?
Do you have grants or sponsors or neither?
How much do you get paid when you play concerti with orchestras?  How much does a flute soloist get paid? Or a violin soloist?  Why are they different? Why are there no bassoon soloists on mainstage concerts?
How many concerti exist for bassoon?
How many complete concerti did Vivaldi alone write? How many unfinished concerti did Vivaldi start?
How many concerti have been written for you? (see list below)
Where will you be playing your next concerto?
Have you recorded these concerti? (see list below)
Who is writing your next concerto?
How do you write contracts?
Can (did) you learn any of this in school?
How do you book rehearsals for large groups with of people who are working in different orchestras?
Where do you rehearse?
How many reeds do you make?
How much does it cost to rent space?
How do you find time to study scores when you are traveling so much?
What are your methods for memorization?
What other concerti do you play?
Why do you do this when you could make more money sitting in a symphony or opera orchestra or teaching in a U. S. university? Why are there no bassoon professorships in Canada?
Do performers need to learn anything special about performing? Or do they just walk on stage and play?
Is a hand-picked group different from an established orchestra?
Where did you get your dress/boots/hair/attitude?
How do you look after a family while being a musician?
How do you learn to play in the extreme high range of the bassoon?
Who was the first woman bassoon soloist?  Who was the first black woman bassoon soloist? And the second?
How do you get people to come to concerts?
Who takes care of the logistics of copying music, correcting parts and getting it to the players?
Who takes care of stage management, lighting and recording?
Who books your  CD tours to take this music to the people?
Do you have to pay people to do those things? Or do you do it yourself?
Do you have any support from your university?
Do you have a website? YouTube channel? Soundcloud?
How do you play when you are sick?
Is it true that you can be a great soloist, chamber musician, teacher and orchestral player?  Or can you only be one of these things?
Is this a lonely life?  Does it take more time than a regular job?
Who else is performing bassoon concerti in Canada? In the US? In the world?
Are there other Canadian bassoonists who have done something like this? What are their names?  Which concerti did they commission?  Where can I get parts and scores for these concerti?
How would I learn to do all this?
Do you need interns to help with rehearsals and concerts?

The goal is to ask a million questions and do a million things and to be curious.

So, in answer to the question, how long did it take me to learn Apollo X…somewhere between a year and a lifetime.

Concerti and works for solo bassoon and orchestra written for Nadina Mackie Jackson
First performance dates and venues

1. SONG OF LOVE AND SORROW (2017) by Mathieu Lussier, for solo bassoon and ?strings, premiere October 11, 2017 at Heliconian Hall

2.  squeezed from wood (2016) by Lucas Oickle for solo bassoon and full orchestra
commissioned by Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra
August 27, 2016, St John’s Anglican, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia with Nova Scotia ?Youth Orchestra led by Dinuk Wijeratne
August 28, 2016, deCoste Centre, Pictou, Nova Scotia with Nova Scotia Youth ?Orchestra led by Dinuk Wijeratne
August 28, 2016, Halifax, St Matthews United Church, Nova Scotia with Nova Scotia ?Youth Orchestra led by Dinuk Wijeratne

3. SILVER ANGEL (2015) by Constantine Caravassilis for solo bassoon and string orchestra, commissioned by Ontario Arts Council and Thirteen Strings (Ottawa) June 12, 2015, St Andrews, led by Kevin Mallon
October 24, 2016, Heliconian Hall, Toronto, led by Constantine Caravassilis

4. APOLLO X (2013)by Paul Frehner, for solo bassoon, string orchestra and percussion, commissioned by Ontario Arts Council & Orchestra London
November 21, 2013, Hyatt Hotel Ballroom, fundraiser gala, first movement only, Orchestra London led by Alain Trudel
February 5, 2016, Centre for Social Innovation, world premiere, group of twenty-seven chamber orchestra led by Eric Paetkau;
October 11, 2017 with NMJ and Out of This World, Heliconian Hall, Toronto

5. SICILIAN PROVERBS (2013)by Michael Occhipinti for trumpet, bassoon & string orchestra ?with percussion and electric guitar, commissioned by Nadina Mackie Jackson
April 25, 2014 , Bloor Street United Church– group of twenty-seven chamber orchestra led by Eric Paetkau

6. THIRTEEN SECONDS by Michael Occhipinti – for trumpet, bassoon & string orchestra with percussion and electric guitar – gift of composer April 25, 2014, Bloor Street United ?Church – group of twenty-seven chamber orchestra led by Eric Paetkau

7. NIGHTFALL, Op. 27(2009) by Mathieu Lussier for trumpet, bassoon, harp and wind ensemble, commissioned  by the American Wind Symphony
?November 23, 2009, Maureen Forrester Recital Hall, WLU Wind Ensemble led by ?Michael Purves-Smith

8. FORT COLIGNY (2014)by Mathieu Lussier for trumpet, bassoon & orchestra
February 16, 2014, Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts– Orchestra Toronto led by Kevin Mallon

9. man will only grieve if he believes the sun stands still (from Bassoon Concerto No. 2)(2010) by Glenn Buhr (also exists in a version for corno da caccia & bassoon)
November 9, 2012, Grace Church on the Hil – group of  twenty-seven led by Eric Paetkau

10. CONCERTO by Adam Scime (2010)for amplified bassoon, electronics and chamber ensemble, January 24, 2011, Walter Hall, University of Toronto New Music Ensemble, led by Constantine Caravassilis

11. ODDBIRD CONCERTO(2011) by Mathieu Lussier for bassoon, string orchestra and percussion November 15, 2013, Trinity St-Paul, Toronto, group of twenty-seven chamber orchestra led by Eric Paetkau

12. CARNETS DE VOYAGES (2007)by Alain Trudel, double concerto for trumpet and bassoon with string orchestra and percussion, commissioned by CBC February 8, 2008, Glenn Gould Studio, CBC, Toronto Chamber Orchestra led by Alain Trudel

13. LE DERNIER CHANT D’OPHELIE(2008) by Mathieu Lussier for bassoon & string orchestra
February 2008, Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto Chamber Orchestra, led by Alain Trudel (repeatperformances May 21, 2016,Toronto, May 23, 2016, Drayton, June 4, 5 and 6, 2016 inEugene, Oregon and September 25, 2016, Toronto)

14. SPRING LULLABY(2007) by Mathieu Lussier for bassoon and string orchestra
2010, Ayr, Ontario, Grand River Baroque Festival Orchestra led by Eric Paetkau
(also exists in a version for corno da caccia & bassoon)

15. BASSANGO by Mathieu Lussier for bassoon & string orchestra
February 2, 2014, Brampton, Rose Orchestra led by David Warrak
Amati Saskatoon at Convocation Hall;
August 27, 2014 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in Marsh Auditorium of the University of Southern Mississippi
August 30, 2014 in Harris Hall at the University of Memphis (Bassoonapalooza); University of Toronto, September, 2016
August, 2009, Just Plain Folks music awards, Wildhorse Saloon, Nashville

16. BACCHANALE by Mathieu Lussier for trumpet and bassoon  with string orchestra
June 16, 2007, Ayr, Ontario, Grand River Baroque Festival
2007, Fredonia, New York, State University of New York at Fredonia 2007
2012 Saskatoon, Amati Strings

17. DOUBLE CONCERTO by Mathieu Lussier for trumpet and bassoon with string orchestra
June 16, 2007, 2010 Grand River Baroque Festival
2014, Okanagan Symphony Orchestra led by Rosemary Thomson
April 4, 2014, Kelowna Community Theatre, Kelowna, B.C.
April 5, 2014, Cleland Community Theatre, Penticton, B. C.
April 6, 2016, Vernon & District Performing Arts Centre, Vernon, B. C.

Nadina Mackie Jackson – Complete Discography 2017
solo recordings
SCARLATTI k545, k213,
k501, adapted for solo bassoon.
Independent (2015)

Lussier Oddbird, Le Dernier
Chant d’Ophélie; Occhipinti
Sicilian Proverbs, Thirteen Seconds;
Buhr man will only grieve
if he believes the sun stands
still. msr Classics 1480 (2012;
Juno nomination 2014)

480, 483, 484, 491, 495, 498, 499.
msr Classics 1451 (2011)

ROMANZA Hummel Concerto;
Weber Andante & Rondo;
Lachner Concertino
msr Classics 1232 (2008)

BACCHANALE Hindemith & Lussier
Double Concerti; Bassango &
Spring Lullaby.
msr Classics 1201 (2007)

AFTER HOURS Shostakovitch,
St Saëns, Rimsky-Korsakov,
Paganini, Boismortier,
Piazzolla. Independent (2010)

24 SOLOS (1740), Jean-Daniel
Braun Independent (2010)
Notes From Abroad Bitsch Concertino,
Schreck Sonata; Lussier,
Schurmer. Independent (2004)

EVER AFTER, Prokofiev Sonata
opus 94; Scarlatti Sonatas, Bach;
Lussier Caprices. Independent(2003)

Flute Fantasias. Oddbird
Studios (2000)

chamber music
THREE with Leslie Newman
and Guy Few, Piazolla, Kuhlau,
Couperin. Independent (2015)

CAMERA Music of David
Occhipinti. lmc Media (2012)

Business of Angels
Baroque PIP1110(2011)

Wind Sextets. atma Classique

MUSICA FRANCA: Michel Corrette
Complete Délices de la Solitude;
Le Phénix; Organ Concerto no.1 in
G Major. msr Classics 1171 (2005)

MUSICA FRANCA: Joseph Bodin de
Boismortier msr Classics 1170

CALIBAN DOES CHRSITMAS Caliban Does Christmas. atma
Classique (2005)
Feast. bis Northern Lights (2003)

BASSOONATICS cbc Records (1997)

baroque and classical
Haydn Symphonies 62, 107 &
108, Toronto Chamber Orchestra.
naxos 8572130 (2008)

Pichel Symphonies, Zakin 8, 11, 14
& 16, Toronto Chamber Orchestra.
naxos 8557761 (2005)

Handel Israel In Egypt, Aradia
Ensemble. naxos 8570966-6

Handel Water Music and Music
for the Royal Fireworks, Aradia
Ensemble. naxos (2006)

Handel Music for the Royal Fireworks
and Concerti a due chori,
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra
sony (1997; Juno Award 1998)

orchestre symphonique de
montréal with charles dutoit
thanks to OSM website

Bartók Concerto for Orchestra,
Music for Strings, Percussion
and Celesta. Decca 421-443-2
(recorded 1987; released 1988;
Juno Award 1989)

Berlioz Harold in Italy, Overture
‘Rob Roy’, Overture ‘The Corsair’,
Pinchas Zukerman. Decca 421-193-
2; re-edition #455361 (recorded
1987; released 1988)

Berlioz Roméo et Juliette,
opus 17, Symphonie funèbre
et triomphale, mso Choir. 2-Decca 417-302-2/
(excerpts) 425-001-2 (recorded
1985; released 1986)

Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique,
opus 14. Decca 414-203-2
(recorded 1984; released 1985.
Grand Prix du Président de la
République-France, 1986; Prix de
l’Académie du disque du Japon,

Berlioz Le Carnaval Romain.
Decca 028945248028 (recorded
1984, released 1997)

Bizet L’Arlésienne Suites 1 and
2 (arr Guiraud); Carmen Suites
1 and 2. Decca 417-839-2 (recorded
1986 & 1987; released 1988)

Chopin Piano Concertos 1 and
2. Jorge Bolet. Decca 425-859-2
(recorded 1989; released 1990)

Debussy Images, Nocturnes.
Decca 425-502-2 (recorded 1988;
released 1990; Juno Award 1990)

Debussy La Mer, Jeux, Le Martyr
de St-Sébastien, Prélude à l’aprèsmidi
d’un faune. Decca 430-240-2
(recorded 1989; released 1990;
Grand Prix de l’Académie du
disque du Japon, 1991)

Debussy Pelléas et Mélisande,
Didier Henry, Colette Alliot-Lugaz.
2-Decca 430-502-2 (recorded 1990;
released 1991; Prix Félix adisq,
1991; Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik,
1991; Juno Award
1992; Grammy nomination 1992)

Elgar Enigma Variations, Falstaff.
Decca 430-241-2 (recorded 1989;
released 1991; Prix Félix adisq,
1991; Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik,
1991; Juno Award
1992; Grammy nomination 1992)

Falla The Three Cornered Hat
(complete ballet), El Amor brujo.
Decca 71060/Decca 410-008-2/
Three Cornered Hat selections,
Ovation 417-748-2 (recorded 1981;
released 1983; Prix Georges-Auric
de l’Académie du disque français,
1984; High Fidelity International
Record Critics’ Award, 1984)

Fauré Requiem, Pavane, Pelléas
et Mélisande. Kiri Te Kanawa,
Sherrill Milnes, mso Choir. Decca
421-440-2 (recorded 1987; released

Fête à la Française: Bizet, Dukas,
Satie, et al. Decca 421-527-2
(recorded 1987; released 1989)

Franck Symphony – d’Indy Symphonie
sur un chant montagnard
français, Jean-Yves Thibaudet.
Decca 430-278-2 (recorded 1989;
released 1991)

Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue, Guy
Cowley; An American in Paris,
James Thomson; Cuban Overture;
A Symphonic Portait of Porgy and
Bess. Louis, Lortie. Decca 425-
111-2 (recorded 1988; released
1989; Prix Félix adisq, 1990)

Holst The Planets, Women of
the mso Choir. Decca 417-553-2
(recorded 1986; released 1987;
Juno Award 1987, Grand Prix du
Disque, Canada, 1988; Edison
Award, Amsterdam, 1988; Mumm
Champagne Classical Music
Award, 1988; Grammy Nomination,
1988; Grammy nomination
Vidéo, 1996)

Lalo Symphonie Espagnole;
Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto no.3,
Joshua Bell violin. Decca 425-501-2
(recorded 1988; released 1989)

Mendelssohn A Midsummer
Night’s Dream, opus 61; The
Hebrides; The Fair Melusine;
Ruy Blas. Decca 417-541-2
(recorded 1986; released 1987)

Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibitio;
Night on the Bare Mountain;
Khovanshchina; Rimsky-Korsakov
Russian Easter Festival Overture.
Decca 417-299-2 (recorded 1985;
released 1988; Grammy Nomination
Vidéo, 1996)

Noël Noël. Leontyne Price,
Tudor Singers of Montreal.
Decca 410-198-1 (recorded 1983;
released 1983; Grammy nomination,

Offenbach Gaîté parisienne;
Gounod Faust (ballet). Decca
411-708-2 (recorded; released

Prokofiev Roméo and Juliet
excerpts. Decca 430-279-2
(recorded 1989; released 1991)
Prokofiev Symphony no. 1
‘Classical’; Symphony no. 5.
Decca 421-813-2 (recorded
1988; released 1989)

Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky,
Lieutenant Kije, Jard Van Nes.
Decca 430506 (recorded 1990;
released 1992)

Ravel Boléro; Alborada del
gracioso; Rapsodie espagnole;
La Valse. lon 71059/Decca
410-010-2/4-Jubilee 421-458-2/
10-Decca 430-239-2/(Boléro, La
Valse) Decca 414-406-2 (recorded
1981; released 1982; Prix Félix
adisq, 1983; Disque d’Or, Canada,
1983; Disque de Platine, Canada,

Ravel Ma Mère l’Oye complete
ballet, Pavane pour une infante
défunte; Le Tombeau de Couperin;
Valses nobles et sentimentales.
Decca 410-254-2/4-Jubilee 421-
458-2/(Pavane) Decca 414-406-2
(recorded 1982; released 1983)

Ravel Orchestral Works.
4-Jubilee 421-458-2 (1988)
Ravel Piano Concertos; et al.
Pascal Rogé. Decca 410-230-2
(recorded 1982; released 1984;
Prix concerto français de
l’Académie du disque français,
1984; Prix Edisson, Amsterdam,

Respighi Pines of Rome, Feste
Romane, Fountians of Rome.
Decca 71091/Decca 410-145-2
(recorded, 1982; released 1983)
Rimsky-Korsakov Scherazade
suite; Capriccio espagnol.
Richard Roberts. Decca 410-253-2
(recorded 1983; released 1984)

Saint-Saëns Symphony no.3,
Peter Hurford. Decca 71090/Decca
410-201-2 (recorded 1982; released
1983; Prix de la musique française
de l’Académie du disque français,

Stravinsky The Firebird; Scherzo
fantastique; Feu d’artifice. Decca
414-409-2 (recorded 1984; released

Stravinsky Pétrouchka, Le Chant
du Rossignol, Quatre études, Art
Maiste. Decca 417-619-2 (recorded
1986; released 1987; Laser d’or
de l’Académie du disque français,
1988; Grand Prix du disque,
Canada, 1988)

Suppé Overtures. Decca 414-408-2
(recorded 1984; released 1986;
Prix Félix adisq, 1986)

Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture,
Capriccio italien, The Nutracker
Suite, Marche slave. Decca 71058/
Decca 417-300-2 (recorded 1985;
released 1986; Prix Félix adisq,


OUT OF THIS WORLD – new music

Last Wednesday night, October 11, 2017, I played four new works for bassoon and strings and percussion with my Out of This World Orchestra.   Two of the works were written for me and I am connected to all of the composers. 
The intense main concerto, Apollo X, composed by Paul Frehner for me and Orchestra London in 2013, has three movements inspired by various popular songs from the 1960s and 1970s that were, in turn, inspired by the Apollo space program and the race to put a man on the moon. Extended virtuosic passages of rhythmic precision and complexity, contrasted with some harmonics and Berio trills along with mysterious floating textures from the strings and percussion.  It is a very absorbing piece to play and it is surprising and beautiful to hear.
The contrapuntal layering of Patricia Morehead’s Come Dance With Me the Dance of Life was inspired both by the composer’s love of dance and by Nina Corwin’s dark, mad-scene poem, Salome Gives Seven Explanations for a Kiss. With rehearsal, clarity emerged from the complex lines and this piece really grew on me.
These energetic, really new-sounding works contrasted with two short, very lyrical works, which were a new arrangement of BernardGarfield’s Soliloquy… the much-loved brief tone poem originally for piano & bassoon, sounding kind of like an upscale gymnopedie with lots of emotive and harmonic variety in the brief minute that it takes to play, and the premiere of Mathieu Lussier’sfloating, soaring, humane Song of Love and Sorrow, a piece that he created and sent to me the day after my father died in February 2017.
Paul Frehner, composer of Apollo X, also was our conductor and we had two rehearsals for this program.  The first rehearsal was at Bloor Street United Church as it was impossible for me to get rehearsal space at either the University of Toronto or the Royal Conservatory of Music, the two places I teach in Toronto.  I rented the airy, chapel-like room on the top floor of the seen-better-days-grande-dame church, and we hauled up 12 stands and a vibraphone, marimba, 2 triangles: high, slightly lower sistrum, 2 gongs, medium tam tam, medium orchestral bass drum. My former student, Megan Morris, came to help and Paul Frehner also helped carry instruments, saying quietly that only now did he realize fully just how many instruments he had written for! I carried up my bassoon, amplifier, and all the attendant electrical equipment.  The genial caretaker of the church found an extension cord for me.  As this group performs standing, the setup is quite simple.  The first 90 minutes were devoted to Apollo X, then the percussion equipment was packed up, hauled downstairs by more musicians this time, then we had another hour to start sorting out the multi-modal Come Dance With Me.
All of the musicians in our group have busy lives.  I was in the midst of John Williams week with the Toronto Symphony, playing four sold-out shows of all the famous film scores, from Jaws to Harry Potter, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark and much more… the superb conductor (Steven Reinecke) channelled the energy of the crowds, and the echoes of their cries (over 10,000 people roared their approval of those 4 shows) echoed later in my mind as I poured my energy into presenting new music for bassoon, strings and percussion.  I also thought about it when I had to decline the invitation to play second bassoon in the Harry Potter extravaganza because it conflicted with my self-presented concerto night.
Our second rehearsal was on October 10 and in Heliconian Hall where we would be performing.  Our group is too big to fit on the small stage, so we set it up in the middle of the hall.  I arrived two hours before the rehearsal began so that I could set up stands and meet the delivery company that was bringing the percussion equipment.  Our second rehearsal began to take shape. The string players are excellent and are effective at floating useful ideas; we are all used to working very quickly under less than ideal conditions.
The players are young, resourceful professionals with a ton of energy and focus… Bijan Sepanji, Jennifer Murphy, Jeremy Potts, Sang Kyun(Steve) Koh, Alex McLeod, Laila Zakzook, Brian Lu, Brian Holt, Joe Phillips and Mark Duggan.  All have established their own chamber groups and are intensely aware of the work that goes into self-presented projects.  I can count on them.  Composer and conductor Paul Frehner is a respected professor at the University of Western Ontario and was truly supportive of this effort.  Despite all the experience and skill that we possess, if a genie jumped out of a bottle, one of my first requests would be for funding for more rehearsal time.
I was fighting a cold, and spent the evening in my hotel room, working on the concert program.  To save money, I am now doing all the graphics and advertising for my project which is a fairly steep learning curve. Trial and error, plus Canva and Create Booklet are all helping, but the night before the show, I set the program up on full-sized pages, uploaded to DropBox and went to bed.


On the concert day, I packed all my gear and spent the morning printing the programs, then got lunch and went to the hall three hours early to set up the music stands (Joe Phillips helped me), move the percussion instruments into place (Paul Frehner and Joe Phillips helped), get makeup slathered on (because Rob DiVito was filming the concert and photographers Bo and Yan Huang were coming to capture a publicity photo) and into my new silver and black leather T-shirt, shiny black leather pants and my blue faux cowboy boots (it is a show, after all) because our soundcheck went 

from 5:00 to 6:30 and the show started at 7:00.  We covered all the pieces in a 90-minute sound check.  My merch volunteers, Reshawn Walcott and James St Fleur, arrived straight from school while we were rehearsing and setting up the CD table; my ticket person Kristin Day arrived just before the show started… all of this part is very important and it helps so much to have people who know how to run the business end of the event.  This is an area where I could use much more help in the days leading up to the shows and is an aspect that needs to be rehearsed to run smoothly.
Right before the concert started, something went mysteriously wrong with my equipment (Apollo X is meant to be amplified)… after testing every component (batteries, microphones, amp and preamp), I decided to pretend it was fine but we suspected the preamp was shot. I remained hooked up to everything and maybe that gave me the confidence to be totally audible, at least, while playing the bassoon.  My speaking voice was reduced to a husky squeak by laryngitis so the audience had to really lean in to hear me.  Joe Phillips offered to lip-read and try to anticipate/guess my next comment. Bijan stood beside me, ready to take over, but I croaked on.

We opened the concert with Bernard Garfield’s Soliloquy, in Kevin Harris’ arrangement for strings and bassoon.  A compact, musically spacious work that goes from suspended, languid beauty to agitated passion and back to floating in eternity, all in a very short time span, it has long been a favourite of bassoonists in the piano/bassoon version.  When I studied with Mr. Garfield at the Curtis Institute, he always passed on new music by other composers, and rarely pushed his own music to us.  He was a wonderful teacher and I sent two of my former students to study with him at Curtis (Julia Lockhart & Alex Eastley)  He still writes to me at the age of 91, full of interest in life and music.
Composer Patricia Moreland spoke a little before we played her vertiginous, single-movement work, Come Dance With Me the Dance of Life.  Patricia studied dance for a decade with Royal Winnipeg Ballet before her heavy-duty career as an oboist, composer and professor. She talked about her love of counterpoint and how grateful she was for a second performance of this work (it had premiered in New York with one rehearsal) and grateful to Paul Frehner for continuing to help edit.  It twists my heart when composers speak of this particular gratitude… broader recognition of the value of original creative work takes a long time.
Then we played the propulsive, energetic Apollo X albeit with a lot of intently focused gazes and, in my case, furrowed brow.  I love the vast shifts in textures in this piece, and the titles of the movements (Ten, Nine, Eight…, Secret Oh Secret and Giant Steps).  This will be the main work on my next Canadian Concerto Project and I want to play it many more times.  It is an out-of-this-world experience to play original pieces with the composer conducting and this was the third time that I’ve had that privilege (previously, Silver Angel with Constantine Caravassilis conducting; Double Concerto & Bacchanale with Mathieu Lussier conducting).
Before the last work, I had each of the performers tell the audience about their next concerts, and I felt so proud to hear of the range of concerts, from violin and viola duets at the library to quartet concerts, to the massive Vivier extravaganza with Esprit.
We ended with Mathieu Lussier’s exquisite Song of Love and Sorrow.
After the show, we visited with the audience.  There were remarkable people in our small audience, including composer Michael Colgrass and his lovely wife Ulla.  And composer Adam Scime.  Adam wrote a concerto for me in 2011 and Michael is being commissioned by SUNY Fredonia to write a concerto for me with wind ensemble.  Because of my obvious cold, Michael told me an amazing story about touring Spain with American Ballet Theatre and watching Erich Barn dance the Black Swan pas de deux night after night with a cold and no sleep. Michael said that I should feel confident I could do anything, and I tried to avoid hugging him too much.
Steve Koh packed up all the stands, and James and Reshawn packed merchandise, signs, equipment and the tiny stack of dollars. I barked (well, croaked and waved) at anyone who approached my gear (still learning to trust). We waited for the cartage company to arrive to pack and haul the percussion equipment, then I did a last sweep of the hall, turning out all the lights, closing doors and activating the alarm system.  My faithful friend Hye Won Cecilia Lee stayed by my side, and composer Patricia Morehead and her amazing husband Phillip Morehead gave us firm instructions to meet them at the Duke of York which we did, and they generously treated us, a wonderful way to end the day.  Luckily I still had my hotel and didn’t have to face the two-hour drive home.
Musically, this concert felt momentous despite my personal sense of complete insignificance (that could be the cold talking).  I have done eight of these self-presented concerts in Toronto in the last year, presenting 25 artists and  41 works (or 53 if you count each of the Telemann Fantasias separately) for bassoon with strings, guitar, voice and piano, along with more works by other soloists.  I also presented 4 other concerts in my church/studio/home in the small town of Drayton to MUCH larger audiences and at lower costs (which makes me think).  I am totally putting my money where my heart is and am carrying a significant debt in the service of these concerts.
One of the students (not one of mine) at the concert asked me how long it took to learn the concerto as it is full of obvious extreme technical and musical challenges. I was very glad that the student had the initiative to ask any questions, and before answering, I said that I first received this concerto in a year when I was premiering 8 concerti and dealing with the long final illness of my father… I had to learn the music in rushed moments between gigs, teaching, tours and hospital visits, yet all that aside, it is a safe rule of thumb to allow one year to learn ANY concerto. 
I wished they had also asked how long it took to plan, to organize, and how much it cost…and how I could play such hard concerti while doing all of the other things, just so that they would understand exactly how rare an event it was and how they could best take advantage of the many opportunities they have as students.  This concerto cost about $12,000 and was paid for by a commissioning grant from the Ontario Arts Council; Bianca Chambul and I split the copying costs.  Canadian concerti can be had for around $12,000… the going rate for a bassoon concerto in the U. S. A. is between $20,000 and $30,000, just for the commission. 
To prepare and present the actual music, to rent rehearsal space, concert hall, and percussion equipment, to pay fees to the musicians along with filing contracts with pension/work dues, plus the costs of marketing and advertising… not to mention parking, travelling, eating, hotels.  Not to mention the exigencies of life.  So many students of our universities want free tickets to arts events and I work hard to make sure that we can pay their way (Michael Sweeney sponsored four students for this concert) yet how many have any real idea of the work and planning that goes into developing new music? Or any music.  I wish they would ask if we get support in significant ways and how that can be improved.  Do they know that all orchestras in Canada and the U.S. are run as charities with massive administrative staff?  Do they know that it is impossible to present classical music without sponsorship?  And do they know that musicians can all help one another if they understand what actually goes into these productions?  Volunteers who understand the infrastructure and the nature of work can actually be part of the survival of classical music.  This is something that I taught my students through our annual Vivaldi concerts and through assisting at my many solo shows when possible. Some of the students really understood the value of these challenging experiences.
Ambitious, independent classical bassoonists are still anomalies yet now is the time for all musicians to put their best work forward and be part of the solution. I cannot do it alone but I am going to keep on this journey and I will share any insights that might help others.  I know that my efforts will reach across boundaries and that other people will relate to my work. I will post video links when I get the material next week.  And I look forward to seeing you at my next concert.