Father’s Day… Though our own father’s come first, our professional mentor fathers are very important.
I’ve had great bassoon teachers, including Bernard Garfield, Sol Schoenbach, Christopher Millard and Gerald Corey. All of them were hugely successful and gifted performers. And fathers. And as teachers, they all gave their best and remained friends with me.
Yesterday, for the first time in years, I pulled out a letter that I have kept in my bassoon case since early in my career. Every time I buy a new bassoon, this old letter comes with me. I have included both the original and a typewritten version for those who can’t easily read Sol’s rapid cursive. I have tried to maintain his poetic capitalizations of certain nouns.
Back in the days of pen-and-paper, I wrote regularly to all my teachers and while I have kept all of their replies, this missive from Sol is the only letter that has traveled with me. Seeing it in my case grounds me and makes me feel at home wherever I am in the world. He opens with a review of a recital recording that I had sent him (cassette tape) and adds a suggestion for how to plan my career in Canada, and ends with a glimpse into his own busy life with career and family. I went on to make commercial recordings of all the works that were on that long-ago recital. And I did my best to follow his career recommendations in the shallow soil of the Canadian garden. He wasn’t right about everything, but he kept me moving forward.
As a teacher, Sol was always utterly candid. He even let me drag a giant cassette recorder into a lesson at a time when that was not common. Though I needed his insight and support, I felt like an equal. He and his beloved wife (a visual artist) Bertha welcomed me into their home though Bertha would always leave us to have our intense bassoon-rich conversations that would turn into duets and dinner. Luckily for them, I lived far away, so these were annual or semi-annual events.
This kind of support and comraderie lasted for Sol’s full lifetime and I see now that it helps me even now that he is gone. Sol launched many great bassoonists and also worked throughout his life to better the lives of all other musicians. This is so far beyond the current cult of brand-name bassoon teachers and institutions but don’t get me started. Anyway, google his name: Sol Schoenbach. And here is the video of his life story… raw footage filmed by me at Domain Forget.
Be good to your teachers if they have been good to you. Mine were all good to me and celebrated both bassoon and the joys of being alive. Happy Father’s Day.
Heart much improved. Preparing for our 50th on July 2ndsponsored by our son Peter + Anne