COUNCIL OF CANADIAN BASSOONISTS
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 at intermission at the Yukon Performing Arts Centre, photo by Bruce Barrett
I have been leading the COCB since co-founding the group in 2006, a span of almost 17 years. We started as a non-profit-organization and 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.
Reasons for Registration:
- Raise the aesthetic taste of the community through musical performance; and
- 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 bassoon to high school students, photo by Guy Few
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 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, photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
Reshawn, already a bassoonist, testing an authentic historical bassoon for the first time
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!
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.
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.
Caitlin wrapping her first reed (she made the whole thing over several lessons)
Caitlin with first waxed reed (she really did it all herself)
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
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.
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.
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
Nadina Mackie Jackson, President and nadinamackie.com
Christopher Millard, Treasurer, retired principal bassoon, National Arts Centre Orchestra
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
Adam Romey, Manager of Digital Concerts and Broadcasts of the Minnesota Orchestra
2018 – 2022
Nadina Mackie Jackson, President
Christopher Millard, Treasurer,
Neil Bishop, Secretary
Jo Ann Simpson
Nadina Mackie Jackson
2009 – 2016
Founding Board of the Council of Canadian Bassoonists as a Registered Charity (January 16, 2009)
Nadina Mackie Jackson
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
Go make a reed