The Words of Our Teachers Echo Forever

The Words of Our Teachers Echo Forever

This week, I heard the world premiere of Paul Hanson’s new concerto, Transitions, for electric bassoon and full orchestra, played at the Taube Atrium Theatre in San Francisco. I am writing this while awaiting my flight home. The premiere was beautifully performed by the composer (already an unusual and wonderful thing) and Symphony Parnassus led by conductor Stephen Paulson, the principal bassoonist of the San Francisco Symphony and Paul Hanson’s former teacher. Though Paul did not follow in the classical footsteps of his renowned teacher, it was beautiful to witness the deep collaborative understanding between them in the performance. And Paul dedicated his concerto to his former teacher and lifelong colleague.

And witnessing this event reminded me of the strength that comes from having truly good teachers. The words of my bassoon teachers (and a couple of others) have resonated with me all my life. Yes, it does matter that they were positive, but they were also honest. I knew I could trust them when they said kind things. More than that, their comments were detailed, precise, and often showed me that my former teachers were aware that significant growth had transpired. My teachers also wrote to me regularly after graduation, and I have saved every letter. I have even carried some of them in my bassoon case, moving the precious documents each time I acquire a new bassoon.

Letter from Sol Schoenbach
In chronological order, here are some samples, mostly from beloved and revered former teachers and one from my least-favourite-yet-nonetheless-respected woodwind teacher,

Christopher Millard, former principal bassoon, National Arts Centre Orchestra 2021 An excerpt from a review from my very first real bassoon teacher, Christopher Millard, written after receiving a copy of my first book Solitary Refinement, Concepts for the Committed Bassoonist. While not a letter per se, his words gave me courage.

“This is a serious book for any bassoonist aspiring to achieve a complete technique. There are many publications that provide localized road maps to developing technical facility. Nadina’s book is the Google Earth of technical methods- extraordinarily comprehensive and thorough in range. Every page is an opportunity for challenge. Solitary Refinement is going to be my companion as I look to maintain and nurture my own playing.”

Garry Hartley, my high school band teacher and a renowned educator in northern B.C., Feb 17, 2021 An excerpt from a handwritten letter from my first band teacher, someone whose opinion I’ve cherished all my bassoon life, written after reading my first book, Solitary Refinement, Concepts for the Committed Bassoonist:

Dear Nadina, Finally, after receiving your wonderful Solitary Refinement 3 weeks ago, I have read and re-read from cover to page 19 and beyond. It has been a stop-start style of reading that I have carefully preserved from myself when I have time to fully immerse myself in placing my mind into each of the ideas, concepts, insights, personal observations, etc that you have shared in this truly marvellous work.

Sol Schoenbach, former principal bassoonist Philadelphia Orchestra, bassoon teacher Curtis Intsitute. June 15, 1989 An excerpt from a handwritten letter from my last bassoon teacher, after I sent him a cassette tape of one of my solo recitals in Montréal:

Chere Nadina: Bravissimo! I’m in shock from such a great tape. Can’t find any fault and wanted more. Your Telemann was a tour-de-force, your Boismortier  was in style and taste. Your harpsichord resonated beautifully and the paying was superb. The Hétu fascinates me. Your ascending legatos were as Shakespeare writes in his sonnet – “Like the waves make to the pebbled shore, E Each giving way to the one that went before!” But it was the Bitsch that took me over completely. Beginning with a sensuous, almost erotic sound and climaxing on the thrilling “E’s”. The last movement with an inevitability that swept me to an almost breathless ending. Never heard anything to equal that. Thanks, and send more.”

Bernard Garfield, former principal bassoonist, Philadelphia Orchestra, Curtis Institute of Music, June 15, 2004 Excerpts from a letter from Bernard Garfield, my first teacher at the Curtis Institute, and a tremendous ally and friend to this day. He wrote me a frank and detailed response after I sent him three of my solo albums (Notes from Abroad, and double album Musica Franca; Boismortier and Corrette:

Dear Nadina: I played both CDs and had a good time. The Corrette is perfect for my morning breakfast music since I like cheerful music and it fills the bill; light and happy sounds. Fraser’s tone in #2, 9 and 15 is full and attractive with an even sound. Your own playing in #5, the Sarabande, is my favourite. I like the fanfare in #13, articulation in #14, and trills in #18. All are a real tour-de-force for anyone and you know how to practice to perfection, even without a bear looking in your window! Now the solo record is sensational. I’ve never heard anyone articulate the final movement of the Tansman like you. Your technique is flawless too. In the fall, I must purchase 4 copies for my Curtis students to study, listen and salivate!!! Before discussing the other pieces, I want to congratulate you on the packaging of this album. The entire concept is beautiful, from the provocative title, the photos, the color scheme, and the program notes. […] I enjoyed Lussier’s Love Songs, which showed the bassoon’s remarkable human-like voice.[…] Lussier’s music should be spread around the globe as he has a soft inner voice that we all admire. […] As to the Bitsch, you just won the Gillet competition… 

John de Lancie (former director Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia), May 1, 1981 A letter from the director of my school to my teacher, Bernard Garfield, following my performance of the Mozart Concerto K191 and just before I started my first job with Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal on May 9, 1981. Mr Garfield sent the original letter to me for my amusement:

“Dear Bernie, I hope you were pleased with Nadina’s performance. I thought she played beautifully. I was amazed by all the “body English” – who gets credit for that?”

Each of these men represent a type of teacher. . . all leaders, all respected, all representing ideals for their younger colleagues. Yet, their examples differ immensely. Four of them write with noble generosity and detailed perspicacity (in my opinion), and one of them gives a rare yet generic compliment, then pulls it back with an off-colour comment. Which kind of teacher do you want to be?

Telemann Flute Fantasias played on the Bassoon

portrait by Georg Lichtensteger

Portrait of Georg Philipp Telemann by Georg Lichtensteger

I will be playing the Twelve Fantasias by Georg Philipp Telemann on Saturday, October 14 at 2 pm in the Rydal Bank Church (1630 Hwy 638,  ca. 10 km north of Bruce Mines).  I have been working on this music for most of my professional career. My admiration for Telemann is based on the concise beauty of these small masterpieces, plus his workman-like initiative in self-publishing them in 1732-33. This concert benefits the Rydal Bank Historical Society and the historical church that they bought in 1989 and have maintained ever since.

My first solo album was of the Telemann Fantasias (originally for solo flute) was recorded in 2001. This recording is still available on streaming platforms. I was inspired upon hearing a recording of these works the great oboist, Heinz Holliger and began learning this music when I was in my 20’s while playing with the Montreal Symphony. Definitely not music that I was exposed to in school, thank goodness. You can be sure that I will keep practising this music!

Here is our programme.

Telemann Flute Fantasia

PLAYING BY HEART – memorizing bassoon concerti

I encourage all bassoonists to memorize and to perform from memory.

Just like all of your favourite rock stars.

I mean, can you imagine Pink looking cautiously down at a music stand before she flies across a stadium, belting out Fuckin Perfect??



My teachers encouraged me to memorize while at the same time not insisting on it because honestly, it has not been part of contemporary woodwind pedagogy.But thanks to them, my mind was opened to the possibility and I have always aimed to memorize my repertoire.

The first time that I played a concerto from memory was with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra upon my graduation in 1981, performing the ubiquitous Mozart K191. I then performed it two more times with Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal and then with Orchestre de Trois-Rivieres and a pick-up orchestra in California. I played my teacher’s cadenzas for the Curtis performances, then wrote my own cadenzas for the professional performances. I laboured over those and wrote way too much material. I eventually learned to keep cadenzas short, also easier to memorize!

Mozart bassoon concerto Nadina Mackie with the Curtis Symphony

Mozart bassoon concerto Nadina Mackie with the Curtis Symphony 1981

The Mozart bassoon concerto is one of the easiest works to memorize, being simple and clear in structure with distinct and bite-sized solo sections. Tackle it with confidence!

The caste system in classical music places instrumentalists in hierarchies of expectations, with the violinists at the top, and descending somewhat in score order, though truthfully, bassists probably face the same prejudices as bassoonists when it comes to concerti. Woodwinds are not expected to have the mental capacity to memorize, though it is never stated as bluntly. We are to know our place, do our jobs, and not aspire to the limelight. Well, fuck that.

Luckily, my brilliant senior teachers at Curtis, Bernard Garfield and Sol Schoenbach, both believed that we can and should memorize. As an added bonus, they completely believed that women were strong and capable and encouraged me to go as far as I wanted, but the biggest obstacle was often my own self-doubt. And since we encounter all kinds of teachers and influential colleagues, it took me many years to realize that not all great colleagues have all the information that we need, and that is ok. We can be uplifted by our teachers, or our teachers can present useful obstacles that we can intentionally demolish in our own good time.

Memorizing music comes very quickly to me. But that is never the biggest challenge.  After learning the other parts, understanding the structure and harmony to the best of my ability, the MOST important thing for me is drilling the music in such a way that when the demons of self-doubt arise, I will not sabotage myself. That is the greatest part of my work.

And honestly, it doesn’t harm me to put in the extra work to engrave the music into my memory, but it does require access to time. Creating time means identifying your purpose to memorize and to start immediately.

Memorizing is a skill that grows with experience. The time that you put into memorizing one concerto will make it a thousand times easier to memorize your orchestral excerpts and other concerti or whatever it is you wish to make your own through memorizing.

Also, the intention carries forward from one effort to the next. Even if you cannot achieve full memorization for a certain performance, you will for the next. Don’t give up.

I have encouraged my students to memorize, and some of them come to it easily while others are more like me in that they need to work it out over time. How you get there doesn’t matter.

Rehearsing Oddbird Concerto with Michael Hall and Sudbury Symphony Orchestra

Rehearsing Mathieu Lussier’s Oddbird Concerto with the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra, September 22, 2023 with Michael Hall, conductor. Photo probably by Maggie Niro🙂

Recently, I performed Mathieu Lussier’s Oddbird Concerto with the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra, led by Michael Hall. This exceptionally musical conductor also performed the concerto by memory, which was a novel experience for me. I have performed with many great conductors, but none who felt comfortable enough to be off-book in a new bassoon concerto.

Memorizing new concerti takes extra time. And remember to prepare yourself for all other aspects of the experience, from imagining different conductors, where you will be standing, whether the conductor is on a podium or not, whether the orchestra can handle your tempi. . . imagine lots of possibilities and prepare for those too. Imagine stopping and starting, sometimes repeatedly, while the conductor rehearses the orchestra.

The great trombonist, Alain Trudel told me that when he first performed from memory (something that he is remarkably skilled at doing), he would increase the discomfort level by working in smaller and smaller rooms, and finally, by inviting all of his friends to cram into a closet-like space while he blasted through some fabulous trombone concerto. Admittedly, this is a pre-covid strategy, but use your imagination and embrace novel challenges that will train your nerves and strengthen your purpose.

Here is my current process.  You can mix and match. Some things are essential (bold print), others can be exchanged. Try it out for yourself. Talk to others about how they memorize

  • Practice from the full score.
  • Learn the other parts, but especially the interludes between your entrances. Once you have memorized your concerto, you will not be counting in the usual sense.
  • Play all the parts on piano. I cannot play piano at all, but I work through all the harmonies. Sometimes I try singing too. It ain’t pretty but it sure helps my understanding of the music.
  • Visualize the solo part before playing.
  • Write out from memory. At first, use piano or bassoon to assist your memory, eventually arrive at a point when you can write it all out without reference. Bassoon fingerings are not particularly linear or logical, so you need lots of ways of visualizing the music.
  • Sometimes practice from the back of the concerto, or of each movement, to the beginning, overlapping as you go.
  • Play with recordings if any are available. And use different recordings with different tempi.
  • Play with a pianist. If you don’t have a reduction of the orchestra part, have the pianist play one of the string lines, or any other instrumental line. It all helps with your deep knowledge of the music.
  • Play for other people well in advance of the rehearsals and performance. Have the work fully memorized for this.
  • Learn the rehearsal numbers (I always forget about doing this)
  • Start the concerto from different points. Ask people to call out rehearsal numbers and you start there.
  • Practice a rehearsal scenario where passages get repeated.
  • Add your own training ideas.
  • Confidence grows with experience.


One-of-a-Kind Auction

I live in the country in the last house built by my father. I love it here. Fresh air and good neighbours and figuring out new ways to work as I continue with playing my bassoon and making art and working on new books. Rather than curate an ever-expanding museum of my rather long career, I am releasing some of the beautiful clothes, hoping some new people will use them to create visions of their own. . . don’t worry, I still have other magical things for the concerts ahead, but I am totally ready to say goodbye to the tiny laced corsets and high heels! I’m also releasing some cherished art of my own and some very special works by other artists. I plan to live forever and keep making art and music . . this auction will help give me some room! I have linked lots of the things below, and you can pre-register with my good friends at Rapid-Sell in Guelph. The auction opens May 7 and closes May 11. While they say that they don’t ship, if you pay for shipping, it CAN be done. Just let them know. And by the way, the bassoon-related stuff is all going to benefit the education charity, Council of Canadian Bassoonists. If you have ANY questions about the auction, please drop me a line.

Here is a link to the newsletter with all the easy links to the free sign-up to the auction and pre-bid on anything you love. This IS your chance to own a one-of-a-kind, twelve-foot, double-sided purple dragon mobile!


Purple flying dragon

Zarka the Dragon

COUNCIL OF CANADIAN BASSOONISTS – now that’s a good idea!

Council of Canadian Bassoonists,logo


now that’s a good idea!

The short story

As we hurtle forward on/in the space/time continuum, I’ve decided that now is the time to tell my personal story of the founding of the Council of Canadian Bassoonists.

In creating the COCB, I wanted to give myself and other Canadian bassoonists a lasting context, something that can grow over time and with contributions from many gifted people. We have so much to offer as teachers, mentors, and performers. I believe that creating an enduring charity sustains general bassoon education and gives me and others an inclusive teaching forum that we can return to and develop throughout our careers. And because this is an official, government-recognized charity, it can exist for many generations for the benefit of musicians and the people who love to listen to music.


Nadina, intermission, Yukon Performing Arts Centre, Council of Canadian Bassoonists

Nadina at intermission at the Yukon Performing Arts Centre, photo by Bruce Barrett

I have led the COCB since co-founding the group in 2006 until stepping down on April 15, 2023, a span of 17 years. We started as a non-profit-organization and after much effort, achieved registered charitable status in 2009.

The Council of Canadian Bassoonists is a charity for the advancement of education that started as my project and now belongs to Canada. I did the foundational work of  learning the ropes and maintaining the charity with me and a couple of good friends (I include my ex-husband in that category). My colleagues have now stepped up  in a big way to sustain this work. I have sparked a lot of development and I am proud of that; now it is time to give others the opportunity to make a charitable contribution the Canadian bassoon world.

Here are the official “reasons for registration” that were arrived at with a great deal of back and forth discussion with the Canada Revenue Agency’s Charities Directorate and composed by them after considerable reworking of our original “objects” and approved on January 16, 2009… the language had to be general enough to benefit broader society while still referencing the bassoon. And these go along with all of the established duties and responsibilities of being a charity for the advancement of education.

COCB Official Charity Registration 2009

Reasons for Registration:

  1. Raise the aesthetic taste of the community through musical performance; and
  2. Provide instructional seminars and workshops on topics related to the the bassoon.

My longer story

Most bassoonists are accustomed to working alone, or in very small groups of related colleagues or students. Reaching beyond our immediate circles is possible through the Council of Canadian Bassoonists, learning to work together for the greater good, giving us the opportunity to connect with purpose and generosity across all of Canada and to share our expertise with the world. It is a place where bassoonists of all levels can meet and exchange ideas, experiences, performances and stay in touch.

Nadina introducing the bassoon at high school, photo by Guy Few

Nadina introducing bassoon to high school students, photo by Guy Few

Council of Canadian Bassoonists

Leslie Magowan introducing the bassoon to a small boy, photo by Nadina

Bassoon players have always tended to be innately philanthropic, giving reeds, lessons, music and sometimes even bassoons to those who want to learn. I certainly had extraordinarily generous teachers who taught me well beyond the weekly hours allotted at the University of British Columbia, the Curtis Institute of Music, and the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. My teachers included Christopher Millard, Bernard Garfield and Sol Schoenbach, along with Jesse Read, who came to northern BC when I was a high school student, and since I was the ONLY double reed player in the whole region, played duets with me for two days, and Sidney Rosenberg, who taught me and Rick Ranti one summer at the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, and Gerald Corey who taught me for free the first summer of my studies… well, I had to feed the cats and house sit when he took his family away for the weekend, which meant I could practise ALL NIGHT. And I will always remember the extra hours of support that I received during my student years (reed lessons, extra lesson time, tickets to concerts, loans of music and equipment) and beyond to when I started my first professional gigs. These teachers were each true mentors, generous and honourable to the core.  There are many other great teachers whose names never come to the fore because they were not associated with big orchestras, including Fanny Davenport, Jo Ann Simpson and Leslie Magowan and others who I may not yet know. These are examples of people who made a difference for good and provide real mentorship to those who needed it. And no one can learn the bassoon without being mentored.

George Zukerman, student

George Zukerman with northern student, 1973

I established the Council of Canadian Bassoonists during one of the busiest times of my career. Life was a blur as I recorded and released concerto albums, taught 21 students at 3 universities and one conservatory in three cities and two countries. I was the mother of a bright young boy and trying to be useful to my aging parents while juggling recordings, tours, concerts and teaching far and wide. Take the busy life of any solo bassoonist, throw in the formation of a charity and watch their hair turn grey. But I didn’t let that deter me. I dyed my hair blue and kept going. My hair is still blue.

Nadina Silver photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Nadina, photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

student, historical bassoon, learning

Reshawn, already a bassoonist, testing an authentic historical bassoon for the first time

outreach, audience, bassoon

Audience member, responding to my invitation to try playing the bassoon after one of my recitals (this is a student Fox). Interestingly, the man observing is the one who became the bassoonist! 

Child, bassoon, early learning

Caitlin LOVED learning about the bassoon and making reeds. She learned quickly.

Ever since I was a student, I wanted to create something permanent that captures the charitable instinct of great bassoon teachers and eager students, somewhere people could turn when they needed help and answers, and where the influence of my mentors and noble colleagues could be emulated and passed on to others. I knew from my own life that the odds of achieving musical goals on the bassoon were greatly increased when experienced players stepped in to genuinely help. And to have a registered charity where tax receipts could be offered to those who supported us through donations of money and equipment. Tax receipts are a real boon as the bassoon is shockingly expensive, and reed-making tools and supplies are also costly. And this goes with buying music, finding regular teachers and schools… bassoonists and their audiences need support to exist and thrive.

My former husband complained that I was on the computer all the time, planning classes, recording projects, applying for grants, helping my many students, filing grades, working on the charity application, then working to get affordable bank accounts and website for the charity. But in truth, I was spending more time in my truck, driving from town to town and of course, to the airport. To give an example, I tried taking my little boy with me on one of my teaching trips to Fredonia, but during the 12-hour teaching day, his computer broke, and he finished all his books, so I drove him back to Toronto that night (a three-hour drive crossing an international border) then returned to Fredonia for a second 12-hour teaching day before hitting the road to go to Waterloo for a similar schedule, returning at the end of the week to my family in Toronto where I then taught at the University of Toronto and the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory. I was so lucky that my mother lived with us during this time and that my husband took such very good care of our boy too. I went on to record several other solo albums, commissioning new concerti and constantly fund-raising for projects. I hosted my own art shows, created chamber groups, including the Caliban Quartet of Bassoonists, Musica Franca and many others. And of course, negotiating the eventual divorce, moving houses several times, standing by my parents until the end as best I could (regrets linger), staying in touch with my son as his work took him far and wide. I was trying to hit all the targets.

Later, my candid ex-husband told me that he kept waiting for me to realize how hard it was to do all that I aspired to, and ‘come to my senses’ aka give up. I have yet to attain that nirvana of graceful feminine resignation and I certainly wasn’t ready to give up 17 years ago.

Fight Like a Girl

When I started this journey, I also thought the organization could magically encompass everything from teaching  to bassoon competitions and scholarships to launching recordings that would showcase Canada’s great depth of performance and compositional talent, lending inspiration to future students and audiences for decades to come. Well, we couldn’t do all of those things. I learned that registered charities must be more focused and limited in their scope of activities, only spending money on their own charitable purposes or, exceptionally, donating funds to other registered charities. There was a lot to learn about being a charity!

Inspired by the enthusiasm of a friend (horn player, Wendy Limbertie), we wrote the applications required to establish the Council of Canadian Bassoonists, a nationally registered education charity for the advancement of education about the bassoon. Fraser started the process to establish the non-profit-organization, and I took over to file the application to become a registered charity. The whole process was much more challenging than I ever imagined.

Wendy had listened with interest to my stories of trying to get bassoon lessons when I lived in northern British Columbia, where the nearest bassoon teacher was 500 miles away, in Vancouver, there was only one flight per day on certain days, I slept in the airport. At that time, it was almost impossible for low-income people anywhere in Canada to have access to the bassoon, to teachers and to concerts. My friend encouraged me to put myself out there to establish something good for the community.

With the reluctant help of my then-husband, Fraser Jackson (even when he was annoyed with everything else about me, he could see the value in such an endeavour), we enlisted a compassionate yet faintly harried/vexed lawyer (Andrew Lokan) and began the long requisite process of first establishing a non-profit-organization in Ontario. This was finally achieved in 2006. Then I began a three-year process of filing for full status as a registered charity. After we re-wrote our official purposes a couple of times and re-submitted the application, we were officially granted full status as a Canadian charity on January 16, 2009.

Our original Board consisted of me, my soon-to-be former husband, Fraser Jackson, and Leslie Magowan, my oldest bassoon friend in the world.

While it is interesting to note that all (I am pretty sure) Canadian orchestras are registered charities, along with theatre, dance and other cultural groups, our bassoon education charity is unique in Canada, and possibly beyond. It is frankly amazing to me that our students and professional classical musicians are so unaware of how large a role “charity” plays in our existence. Despite the ubiquitous role of charitable organizations in the Canadian classical music scene, there was certainly very little education on this foundational aspect of our cultural sector. I had a lot to learn about how to run a charity.  In fact, I continued to call it a “non-profit-organization” long after we became a fully registered charity.  I am embarrassed to say that I thought that calling the COCB a “charity” made us sound pretentious, or somehow condescending!  Despite that, we dutifully filed our T3010 information returns every single year and all of the attendant paperwork. It is very much a matter of bringing our work to the world while living within the rules of charitable structures. It would have been much easier to have remained a non-profit-organization, but there is great value in being a charity. We have received generous donations from many people who support and believe in our efforts, from people who heard me talk about the Council of Canadian Bassoonists at concerts and from others who have found our website. And we received donations of reed tools, music, and even two fine student bassoons.

My next Board consisted of myself, Leslie Magowan, and Canada’s ambassador to the bassooniverse, George Zukerman. George had replaced my former husband on the Board, because it is a requirement that all members of charitable boards be at “arm’s length”, i.e. unrelated by marriage or blood. Again, just one of the many things that we had to learn. And my distinguished fellow Board members were there mainly to offer valuable advice on the running of the charity and to fill out the minimal requirements for having a board, i.e. President, Secretary and Treasurer.

Even though no other bassoon charities exist, there are many other charities in Canada. I received some tips George Zukerman about running board meetings, and many more insights about governance from established CEO’s of long-standing charities, and my well-informed bookkeepers along with memorizing the restrictions and duties of being a registered Canadian education charity. If YOU want to learn more, there is a ton of information on the CRA (Canadian Revenue Agency) site that clearly explains the differences between a non-profit-organization (NPO) and a charity.

Child, making bassoon reed

Caitlin wrapping her first reed (she made the whole thing over several lessons)

child, bassoon reed, maker

Caitlin with first waxed reed (she really did it all herself)

reeds, notebook, early education

Caitlin’s reed notebook… she did the drawings and I added the terminology

The purpose of the Council of Canadian Bassoonists is the advancement of education, i.e. to educate all Canadians about the bassoon! Age is no barrier… the COCB was founded to bring the bassoon to people young and old, and to diverse audiences, and amateur and community players along with dedicated career bassoonists.

In the beginning, I enthusiastically gathered old bassoons from some generous people and loaned them to needy students for a few years before I realized that this was beyond the scope of my fledgling charity. Our Ontario repairmen valiantly tried to do small repairs for free or at very low prices, but when a COCB bassoon was dropped by a bassoon student in the Maritimes and the bell shattered, I had to re-evaluate this aspect of our endeavours. Some day in the future, when we have a much bigger budget and one or two repair persons either on our Board or on our list of volunteers, we can add bassoons again. I sold all the bassoons we owned, and that money went into the coffers to update the website and to expand our online educational offerings, which were especially valuable during the extended covid years.

I often talked to my son about the challenges of running a bassoon charity, and when he was much younger, he was perplexed as to why I ran a charity at all… his youthful comment was, “Aren’t charities run by rich people??” And his point was accurate… I spent so much time trying to get this charity off the ground that it really did take time and resources away from my own efforts to make a living (not his words, but definitely mine). Yet my son also understood why I wanted to do this work

upper right: child looking up at bassoon, Yukon Performing Arts Centre, Bruce Barrett, photo

right: Hanna learning about the bassoon – the moment the photo was done, she blew with the strength of a warrior, Nadina, photo


Yukon Performing Arts Centre, bassoon, photo by Bruce Barrett
Council of Canadian Bassoonists

I told audiences about the Council of Canadian Bassoonists on my recital tours, mentioned it in my bios, and the COCB even co-hosted the University of Toronto’s only bassoon day (Sounds to the Future, 2015).  I recorded a short CD of solo bassoon music (Scarlatti/Sweeney) and sold it at concerts for $5, donating the funds to COCB. I took dozens of free reeds to concerts for young people, enough so that every person could have their own reed, and if they wanted, they could each try the student bassoon that I brought. NOBODY touched MY bassoon…well, except in the Yukon (first photo). I continued with the support of my small Board while continually thinking of more ways to reach out in affordable ways.  

Council of Canadian Bassoonists
Council of Canadian Bassoonists

above: Daniel learns about the bassoon, photo by Nadina

left: Christine holds a bassoon for the first time in decades, the joy was real, photo by Nadina

The COCB loaned bassoons to several young players who would not have otherwise had access to an instrument, and on one occasion, we loaned a COCB bassoon to a senior citizen (pictured above) so that she could play the bassoon part at a Christmas concert in her retirement home. When I lived in the tiny town of Drayton, Ontario, I taught my neighbour’s 4 bright children some basic things on the bassoon. Three of them, ages 4, 6 and 8, learned to make a bassoon reed. Other members of the Board and associated mentors regularly gave free lessons to those who needed them. I arranged a Gear Swap day, where professionals could bring extra equipment, reedmaking supplies and sheet music to the University of Toronto when I was teaching there and offer these things to students and other bassoonists who needed them (more of a Gear Giveaway). This was a lovely relaxed event and several happy bassoonists left the building with tools they needed. These were all good things.

Pat Bolduc

Yet clearly the charity needed more support to create bigger projects. We could continue teaching people, and talking about the COCB at concerts, but I aspired to having mobile bassoon leaders who would travel to more remote locations to play small concerts and lead bassoon days of learning. We had managed to host a couple such days in bigger towns, but I wanted to include all of Canada in our live events.  The Board that now consisted of bassoonist and Sistema teacher, Neil Bishop along with retired teacher, Leslie Magowan, and myself. The Council of Canadian Bassoonists needed more hands on-deck. In 2019, we took the step of inviting a truly prestigious and powerful group of bassoonists and supporters of the bassoon to form our Board.

In the three years that this bigger and better Board operated (2019 – 2022) we increased our educational resources online and in the form of online classes.  We outlined committees to develop all aspects of our organization from governance and by-law development to membership to educational outreach and website restructuring. The Covid pandemic gave us time to meet and plan, but it was also a very surreal time since we could not plan in-person events. This opened new doors to broadcasting and including people from across the continent and beyond. You can still find some of these videos on our YouTube channel (also added during the pandemic) and more will be coming.

Now we are launching 2023 with a new Board of renowned bassoonists and teachers, with representation from younger players, established bassoonists, amateur bassoonists, and community players. We are increasing our online resources, upgrading the capacity of the website, working towards launching the membership platform so that people can easily register, and we are collaborating with an award-winning young composer to create accessible extended techniques works of music for young bassoonists.

Now it is time for me to hand the reins of this nationally registered education charity, the Council of Canadian Bassoonists, to the bassoonists of Canada to shape and share in lasting educational and charitable ways that will benefit Canadians for generations to come. I thank the people who made this charity possible, all the friends and advisors, Board members, the bookkeepers, the diligent lawyer, the enthusiastic audiences and dedicated students. I will be very proud to be the President Emeritus and Founding Mother of the Council of Canadian Bassoonists. I may have to make myself a commemorative plaque.

And if you have read this far, you are a friend of the BASSOON! Please write to us on the contact form (scroll down the home page) and we will add you to the mailing list for events. And hunt for us on FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram… we are there somewhere and want you to join us. As for me, well, I shouldn’t be too hard to find.

2023 -See full bios of current Board here 

Christopher Millard, President and Treasurer, retired principal bassoon, National Arts Centre Orchestra

Nadina Mackie Jackson, Founding Past President

Neil Bishop, Secretary, Sistema NB

Jo Ann Simpson, University of Ottawa, Brooke Valley Bassoon Days

Stéphane Lévesque, principal Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, McGill University

Richard Ranti, associate principal Boston Symphony

Darren Hicks, principal National Arts Centre Orchestra

Nicolas Richard, second Kitchener-Waterloo

Gabe Azzie, principal Symphony Nova Scotia

Barbara Finch, community development, Sault Ste-Marie Symphony

Jesse Read, retired director school of music University of British Columbia

Heather Gibson, high school music teacher The Pas, northern Manitoba

Emily Carlsen, grad student, multi-instrumentalist, bassoon tech, University of British Columbia

Philip Morehead, retired head of music staff, Chicago Lyric Opera

Michael Hope, Calgary Philpharmonic

Vincent Ellin, retired principal bassoon, Winnipeg Symphony

Kathleen McLean, Indiana University and retired associate principal, Toronto Symphony

2018 – 2022

Nadina Mackie Jackson, President

Christopher Millard, Treasurer,

Neil Bishop, Secretary

Mathieu Lussier

Patrick Bolduc

Neil Bishop

Jo Ann Simpson

Leslie Magowan

Philip Morehead

Jesse Read

Eric Macarios

Adam Romey

Utta Messerhuber


Nadina Mackie Jackson

Leslie Magowan

Neil Bishop


2009 – 2016

Founding Board of the Council of Canadian Bassoonists as a Registered Charity (January 16, 2009)

Nadina Mackie Jackson

George Zukerman

Leslie Magowan


2006 – 2009

Founding Board of the Council of Canadian Bassoonists as a non-profit-organization (April 24, 2006, objects amended November 24, 2008)

Nadina Mackie Jackson

Fraser Jackson

Leslie Magowan

Go make a reed