Oh, in case you’re wondering and are afraid to ask…

Oh, in case you’re wondering and are afraid to ask…

I will never retire. First of all, I don’t have a job to retire from, and equally important, I have not yet attained my goals. I will keep imagining what is possible, I will keep hustling for concerts and funding and opportunities for myself and others. I will keep teaching, making art and exploring new ideas. You’re welcome to join me if you are equally motivated, resourceful, resolute, imperfect and kindhearted.

Nadina Mackie Jackson

Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Nadina Mackie
Blue Bell's first concerto recording

Blue Bell’s first concerto recording

Underestimate me that will be fun

Underestimate me that will be fun (gift from Gusty❤️)

Uncomfortable nagging thoughts…

It was sobering to witness the extreme poverty and homelessness in the towns and cities to which I travelled for concerts and music-related stuff to Peterborough, Ontario, Fredonia and Dunkirk, New York, Prince George, B.C. and Portland, Oregon… most dramatically in Portland where thousands of tents LINE THE STREETS. I was shocked.

I stayed in a massive historical hotel in Portland, built in 1912, a scene of thousands of past and present conventions and gatherings of business people and those pursuing the American dream (like all of us). Right beside this monument to ambition and well-being, the flimsy filthy tents flutter in the wind as the residents scurry quickly and furtively, trying to stay out of trouble but really, no way to avoid it.

“This All Happened More or Less”

“This All Happened More or Less” by Crystal Schenk & Shelby Davis 2014, bronze, dolomite, stone

What are we doing to equalize opportunity for everyone? Where do classical music concerts fit when thousands of people have no safe place to sleep, let alone a means to find good food? Musicians need work to keep off the streets, and as hard as it is for us to find work, we still seem better off than many. It seems that a major tipping point has to come sooner than later if we don’t address this in a daily steady way. Regardless of the political party, there is an army-in-training on the margins of all the towns I visited… literally marginalized people who are surviving with very little and yet, are tough, resilient and possibly getting angry. If you are doing anything at all to help, that is good. I’m still thinking about this. I regularly donate to music charities, including educational groups and regional orchestras, and I established a nationally registered education charity, the Council of Canadian Bassoonists… these things help with the educational and cultural layer, but what about all the others who face stark, immediate poverty? And how many of those destitute people are also talented musicians, as deserving of education and opportunity as anyone? More than I few, I reckon.

Favourite Restaurants from my recent travels

Excellent affordable restaurants during my travels…

superb Indian menu at Windjammer Restaurant in Clarion Hotel in Dunkirk, New York (limited hours but worth adjusting your schedule to go); in Prince George, B.C., Spicy Greens (I loved the lamb palak dosa),  the homey Madras Maple Cafe along with Wasabi Sushi & Wonton and great coffee at Ristretto  …heaven)

Also really enjoyed Burns Lake’s Dragon Palace restaurant  / for comforting Chinese food and the Boer Mountain Coffee house for excellent coffee etc. And in the formerly sleepy tiny mill town of Houston, BC, near our former ranch, there is another fine expresso joint, The Pallisades Cafe.

And while in Portland, Oregon, I really enjoyed the Stumptown Coffee Roasters on Division Street (and am still enjoying a bag of “El Puente” Honduras coffee beans) and when I visited nearby Mount Hood, the Mount Hood Roasters time stopped for me with a finely-textured latte and a childhood-memory-inducing huckleberry cheesecake “pillow”, a gluten-free pastry (I think).

Madras Maple Cafe

Butter Chicken from Madras Maple Cafe


Blue Bell takes over from Big Red

My new blue Bell bassoon, aka Blue Bell, is a total joy and came through like a champion for all of the concerti and studio recording that I did in springtime 2022. I have chosen to commit to Bell bassoons and sell my glorious 15k Heckel aka Big Red to the immensely gifted powerhouse principal bassoonist of the Oregon Symphony, Carin Miller.​

My Professional Bassoons…. Heckels to Bells

I have played many bassoons and in particular, several Heckels since the start of my life as a bassoonist,  from the 5000 series (made in the first decade of the 20th century) loaned to me as a student by Christopher Millard; to the 6000 series (1920s)  loaned to me by the Curtis Institute of Music when I decided to sell my fancy Püchner; the 10k series (late ’50s through 1960s); the 12k series (1970s); the13k series (1980s) and finally, Big Red, a 15k series Heckel from 2008.

Big Red's last day in the log house

Big Red, ready to fly to Portland. Carin laughed when she saw my suitcase and said “Put a bird on it!” (Portlandia reference that I vaguely remembered)

Big Red's last day in the log house

Blue Bell, here to stay

My last three Heckels really suited my style of playing and led me forward to greater power and expressivity. As bassoonists know, all top-of-the-line professional bassoons take considerable time to make. Waiting times for Heckels increased with each passing year, and the last official notice that I saw from Heckel indicated a 16-year waiting list; they have closed orders until they can catch up. Which puts a huge premium on the already costly newer model Heckels in the 15000 and 16000 series.

Nadina with 12k Heckel bassoon

Nadina with 12k Heckel, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, wearing tailor-made, full tails, cufflinks, cummerbund, tie and all 🙂 (what a pain in the ass to tour with that outfit!)

Nadina with 10k Heckel001

With the 10k series Heckel that I won my second bassoon position with Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal… back when I wore long black skirts and earrings🤣

Nadina with 13k Heckel

With #13479, the first one that I ordered directly from the Heckel factory. And a suit that was imposed by the stylist for my first real publicity shots…yikes!

With 13k Heckel in 2006

Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

#13479, a decade after I was a second bassoonist. Fancy boots were painful…we played the !@#$! Jolivet concerto in those boots!

Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann (dance photographer!) with 15,000 series Heckel, aka Big Red.

Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann (dance photographer) with 15k series Heckel, aka Big Red💖 Note bare feet 🤣


Every time that I invest in a new bassoon, it opens different aspects in my playing. And I have discovered that I loved the newer and newest Heckels best of all, and now, the new Bell bassoons.

And equally important, I think that the bassoons respond and develop according to how we play them. Big Red, the 15000 series Heckel, is a true thoroughbred… willing, capable, big, gleaming, powerful enough to soar above the ensemble in solos yet flexible enough to melt into any orchestral texture. 

I have recorded six concerto and solo albums on Big Red, premiered 18 new concertos, played more concerti in concert, played hundreds of solo and chamber recitals, and toured with folk artists on electric bassoon and chamber music/orchestral concerts. I played principal bassoon in chamber orchestra concerts and recordings, and second bassoon often with Toronto Symphony. This magnificent horn is both versatile and distinctive.

Handing Big Red to Carin

I hand-delivered Big Red to Carin Miller in Portland and I will forever cherish the texts and jaw-dropping debut video that she sent upon playing this bassoon for the first time. I keenly look forward to hearing Carin as she continues her own strong career as an orchestral bassoonist, soloist, chamber artist and renowned teacher and founder of Bassoons Without Borders.

I am proud that my former bassoons are still being played by other top players in the world.

Handing Big Red to Carin

Yeah, you know you want our sunglasses.

Big Red and I did a lot of work together, and before him, Black Beauty and Mr. Brown

You can still hear me playing Big Red and the others on many commercial recordings and recorded live performances:  Hummel Grand Concerto, Lachner Concertino, Weber Andante & RondoOddbird Concerto, Sicilian Proverbs, Thirteen Seconds, Vivaldi Concerti, Scarlatti, J-D Braun 24 Solos, Lussier Oddbird ConcertoDouble ConcertoSong of Love and Sorrow, (and so many more works), Glenn Buhr’s man will only grieve if he believes the sun stands still, Marc Mellits’ Dark Matter, Paul Frehner’s Apollo X, Constantine Carravasilis’, Silver Angel. and there is so much chamber music to hear and works with piano. Big Red has made his mark on my life and I’ll never forget him. 

Black Beauty, my former 13000  Heckel can be heard in many Montreal Symphony recordings and in the award-winning concerto album Bacchanale (Hindemith and Lussier Double Concerti) and many chamber music albums, including Musica Franca and Caliban Quartet.

The brown 12000 Heckel can also be heard on many Montreal Symphony recordings, along with the 10,000 series horn that I won the second bassoon position in 1981. 

Nadina Mackie jackson

Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

We’re all in this together…

And while all of this is mildly interesting, it also underlines how swiftly life passes, and how many beautiful bassoons there are and so much gorgeous music to be written, performed and recorded. Our names will be forgotten, just as the names of all previous bassoon virtuosi and bassoon section players are largely forgotten, but our efforts will somehow resonate in the art of the bassoon makers, the new fantastic concerti by composers present and past, and the general quality of playing (which has always been so much better than we realize)…

Keep up the good work, everyone!

Blue Bell's first concerto recording

Blue Bell’s first recording session, Carnival by Augusta Read Thomas for solo bassoon & wind ensemble May 1, 2022 at SUNY Fredonia

Body of Work

There has been a slight hitch in my plans and I am forced to cancel my upcoming March 8 appearance in Halifax for Cecilia Concerts with Ophelia Rises. The concert will go on under a different title with the super tango group, Payadora. I encourage my supporters to attend because they are a fantastic and life-affirming group.

I had day surgery on February 27 at Humber River Hospital to remove three malignant melanomas from the backs of my arms. While we originally thought that the surgery wouldn’t prevent me from traveling and playing, when it came to the actual surgery, my wonderful operating surgeon,  Dr Romy, said that because of the depth of the excisions, position (one was near elbow) and the large number of multi-level stitches, I must not lift anything over 5 pounds and that air travel with a heavy bassoon backpack case (25 lbs) and gear was out of the question. I suggested that I drive instead of fly, but he categorically forbade travel.

Booking concerts is a huge moral and financial responsibility. My presenter, Jules Chamberlain of Cecilia Concerts, is the soul of understanding and efficient professionalism when it came to understanding this crisis.  He quickly rebooked the concert with Payadora since they form the core of my string ensemble and are an incredible group. My string colleagues responded to this unexpected turn of events with real grace (Joe Phillips, Rebekah Wolkstein, Drew Jurecka and Charlotte Paradis).

Even though I cannot be paid for this concert, I had already bought all the plane tickets and guaranteed a fee to each musician which must be honoured. And my beloved audience will be given a choice of attending the replacement concert (which I keenly hope they will) or having a refund. One concert goer has already offered her ticket refund to help pay for the costs of this last minute change.

Back to the health stuff, I will say one last thing… I went to a Bloor Street dermatologist over a year ago and he dismissed me, saying I worried too much. He brought in another doctor from the same private dermatology practice where they both worked, and she said that fair skinned, blue-eyed people often have weird freckles or spots that are not a concern. Neither of these doctors suggested biopsies or even a real second opinion from more qualified doctors. I knew something was wrong, but my life was insanely busy and I allowed myself to trust these preoccupied and dismissive people.

After recently returning to my excellent family doctor and being instantly recommended to Womens’ College Hospital, it turns out that my particular melanomas are utterly atypical, and thus prone to misdiagnosis. Yet I always knew something was wrong because of how they felt and their proximity to the first melanoma that I had when I was 31 years old. When my current outstanding dermatologist at Women’s College Hospital, Dr Vincent Piguet, delivered the news on Feb 5, he said that there is a huge amount of current research that will help me get through this if the surgery is not enough. He also said that fair-skinned, blue-eyed women (!) are 20% more likely to develop melanomas.

Moral of story: trust your instincts and take time to follow up with good doctors who listen with respect, understanding and genuine expertise. Don’t allow people to wave you away.  Each of my current superstar doctors has the ability to listen, understand and educate.  They are patient and efficient. Having said that, the single best step I made was to return to my family doctor to ask for a proper new recommendation. She burst into action, and so have all of the other doctors. Thank you.

Here is the 12 point update.

1. Melanoma is super scary (if you look it up, go to a reputable site)
2. I’ve had it before in same place and surgery kept it away for 30 years
3. I had 3 melanomas removed from my arms this week
4. I have about 70 stitches (guessing) and deep wounds (for sure) but after three days, no pain and I only took one pain killer on the first night
5. I have great doctors from three kickass hospitals (Women’s College, Humber River and Princess Margaret)
6. Stitches will come out in mid March
7. I start playing again in March and the Ophelia Rises show will happen again in the future
8. Tests will be finalized in March
9. I have amazing friends and neighbours and colleagues who are standing guard to help me
10. Everything will be fine and I will always update you
11. I feel great, aside from canceling concert.
12. Please don’t worry. I really am amazingly resilient. My adversity-training and ass-kicking credentials are completely up-to-date.


Sky is the Limit

I realized tonight, on Canadian Thanksgiving, that it’s 10 months since I have last visited this blog!

Well, goodness gracious and my stars, that is an unprecedented period of seemingly silent reflection.

I have been busy and will talk about all of that soon. And have been sorting thoughts in addition to all else. Which has made me uncharacteristically quiet.

For the moment, I want to mention the sky. The same sky that is above all of us, but which has become very much more noticeable to me. And maybe it is not the sky so much as it is the surprises of light, the immense variety that must always be there, independent of our human attention.

Though I am not particularly remote, some things are very different where I live, for example, no street lights and no 24-hour city lights. Just the vast sky and its constantly shifting light show.

Here are some of the views… mostly to the south or to the east, fairly similar vantage points, yet always looks different.

People ask if I feel isolated in the country. No, I most definitely feel more connected in ways that I have not had time to think about before. If I feel insignificant, that might be because I’ve never before looked up so often or for so long.