Baroque Bassoon Bonanza #2

 Again, this is not really a Bonanza but it is so fun to alliterate!

I had my second lesson with Andrew Burn this week and learned that Switzerland changes Daylight Savings Time two weeks after we do in the United States - I had no idea.  

Working intentionally to practice this past month revealed many things:

  • it's challenging to carve out time for a "new" endeavor
  • it's challenging to motivate myself for an endeavor at which I am not "good"
  • it's challenging to think musically when I'm struggling with fundamentals
  • while the Baroque bassoon is a different instrument from my modern bassoon, and should be treated as such, the approach to learning is the same
  • reeds...
Andrew has been working to help me sort out my reeds.  I have three reeds that were supplied to my by Leslie Ross and a fourth reed which I purchased from a Baroque reedmaker in Canada.  None of these are easy to play on for various reasons, pitch and response being the biggest issues.  Andrew graciously sent me four of his old reeds to get a sense of their potential for matching my instrument.  They worked well and were appropriately pitched which was a huge relief.  My proposal for my sabbatical includes learning Baroque reedmaking but I must admit, I'm so overwhelmed with learning the instrument and the performance practice, it's hard to imagine at this point how I will also manage learning reedmaking.  

Our lesson together went well enough.  Andrew performs and teaches at a level vastly superior to where I am currently playing or even at which I have knowledge.  It's wonderful to hear him play in lessons, the nuance of style, character and rhythm is immediately beautiful.  Unfortunately, I'm still so mired in the logistics of playing, I'm not able to respond and make quick adjustments in my lesson.

This is a crucial illustration of an ongoing challenge I have with my own students.  One of my single greatest frustrations with my teaching is feeling vastly underutilized by most of my studio.  I want to to talk about making beautiful music.  In reality, I spend most lessons with students reminding them to flick, half-hole, fix fingerings, adjust reeds, model practicing; living in the world of fundamentals.  But in this process I'm reminded that they are struggling with those fundamentals and therefore cannot jump ahead to the communication of beautiful music.  

One of my goals for this sabbatical is to ponder this quandary: how can I get my students to master their fundamentals earlier in their studies (though we never abandon fundamentals) so that we can get to music-making.  This is a process addressed each semester but also within the arc of 8 semesters of collegiate study.  Determining when in each lesson, when in each semester, and when in their total studies I stop hearing the minutiae of scales, technique etc and pass that responsibility over to them to manage on their own so that we can spend more of our time together working on the music made possible by robust fundamentals.  As part of that careful process, when and what repertoire to select that challenges and compliments their foundational work without overwhelming.  

This week's lesson with Andrew demonstrated that I have made progress on the instrument, finding more clarity in my tone, improved intonation, and early attempts at ornamentation.  He also encouraged me to do some needed repair work to the instrument to fix the stuck low b-flat key on my own which is pictured below.  Finally, a recording of my current progress.  


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