Today I had my first lesson with bassoonist Andrew Burn.
It was wonderful...and humbling...and a reminder of so many things I say to my students which are now being said to me:
- figure out your fingerings (so we can focus on music)
- "It all sounds the same..."
- Long tones
- Kovar studies
But first, I need to back up to explain why I'm studying with a Swiss-based historical bassoonist over Zoom.
In 2019 I ordered a Baroque bassoon from Leslie Ross, bassoon-maker. Over the years, and because of a few less than positive experiences, it became obvious that I need to learn a lot more about performance practice. The opportunity presented itself to have a bassoon built and I seized it! It took about 6 months to receive the bassoon. You can watch my unboxing and first horrible notes here:
After receiving the instrument with a few reeds from Leslie and a fingering chart, I went to work teaching myself how to play. It didn't really go anywhere. In the summer of 2019, I headed up to Bozeman, Montana to attend the Baroque Music Montana Period Performance Workshop. It was a wonderful experience to be placed in an ensemble and perform with other professional modern players who were novice period performers. The experience whet my appetite for learning and growing as an informed period performer. The Baroque world is an entire world unto itself with a unique and distinct set of performers, teachers, repertoire, ensembles, and instruments different from modern bassoon. If I have learned anything about period performance it's that you have to leave behind everything you know about music as a modern player and open your mind and ears to something entirely new...or old.
You can watch my performance (on modern bassoon) here:
Enter global pandemic....fast forward to fall 2021. I achieved CFS status at BYU-Idaho (our version, though nothing like a tenure process) which allowed me to apply for my first faculty leave (sabbatical). I decided it was time to carve out meaningful Baroque study with master teachers, players, and ensembles. I submitted my application for leave in Jan - April 2023, traveling in the US and Europe to study Baroque bassoon and performance practice. My leave was approved and funded - wow!
However exciting it was to receive that news, it was hampered with the reality that in over two years of owning my own instrument, I really had learned very little and had made no meaningful process.
I started researching how I could begin my studies immediately despite being in southeastern Idaho, thousands of miles from any major center of period performance. Even though I was a year away from my sabbatical, I knew I needed to start preparing now if my leave plans were going to amount to anything productive. I wanted to function in my leave as a Baroque bassoonists who was well in control of my instrument and some rep, not as a beginner. I found Andrew Burn and his many resources to include a masterclass he was holding with Dominic Teresi.
I joined Andrew's Patreon to access more of his resources and masterclasses. It was obvious I had so much to learn and as much as I desired to expand my knowledge, I wasn't engaged in structured learning. In fact, I wasn't even sure how to structure my learning of both the instrument and performance practice. I had a lot of questions but not the confidence to ask. I increased my Patreon level which included a monthly lesson, and that is where I am at today.
It's my goal within this process and upcoming sabbatical to use this experience to remind myself of the challenges associated with the learning process of my students. There are so many challenges a student has to face as they enter a degree program and move swiftly from novice to competent to masterful. Already, I feel more empathy:
- lack of confidence
- humility in learning
- amassing resources
- reaching out to master teachers/performers
- lesson anxiety
- lesson inability
I'm very excited to embark on this journey and to document my thoughts and experiences. In the spirit of transparency and to help the reader appreciate how high the mountain is which I must climb, here's a sample of my current playing. Enjoy...?