Bassoonasana –or- Yoga and the Bassoon

Bassoonasana

I start­ed prac­tic­ing yoga about a year and a half ago. The stu­dio I attend is devot­ed to Bikram Yoga1, a form of Hatha yoga that con­sists of a pre­scribed series of 26 pos­tures and two breath­ing exer­cis­es done in a 105°F room over the span of 90 min­utes. It’s intense. One writer pro­claimed that “if Chuck Nor­ris did yoga, it would be Bikram.“2 I first went to class at the behest of my wife Veron­i­ca (a 6–8 class­es per week devo­tee), and was sure I wouldn’t like it. But I found the class’s com­bi­na­tion of men­tal and phys­i­cal chal­lenges to be com­pelling, and I’ve been going reg­u­lar­ly (more or less) ever since. I try to go to two or three class­es per week, but I haven’t always man­aged to main­tain this in the thick of the semes­ter.

I say that I teach music, but a good deal of my instruc­tion could, I sup­pose, be called phys­i­cal edu­ca­tion. Play­ing the bas­soon requires the coor­di­nat­ed inter­ac­tion of more body parts than most oth­er instru­ments. All ten fin­gers must be able to move both inde­pen­dent­ly and in dozens of dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions; mus­cles of inhala­tion and exha­la­tion must be fine­ly con­trolled; form­ing the prop­er embouchure is crit­i­cal; tongue, jaw, and throat posi­tion all have influ­ence on the sound a play­er pro­duces; for most set-ups, the left arm must sup­port some of the instrument’s weight. And of course there are the more gen­er­al issues of pos­ture, eye con­tact, cue­ing, and expres­sive or time-keeping ges­tures.

In the ser­vice of all of the­se things, I firm­ly believe that stay­ing fit is an impor­tant part of my musi­cal rou­tine. There are cer­tain­ly lots of types of exer­cise to choose from, and each offers its own par­tic­u­lar ben­e­fits. I’ve found my yoga prac­tice to be help­ful to my bas­soon prac­tice in many ways, across both the phys­i­cal and men­tal realms. I’d like to share some of the lessons or crossover skills that yoga has pro­vid­ed me. Pret­ty much all of the­se apply to musi­cians in gen­er­al; some of my com­men­tary is just very bassoon-specific.

Breathing

The most obvi­ous con­nec­tion between yoga and play­ing bas­soon relates to breath­ing. The class­es begin with an exer­cise that involves slow deep breath­ing (along with sim­ple arm and head move­ments). One of the pur­pos­es of this exer­cise is to explore 100% of your lung capac­i­ty, both when inhal­ing and when exhal­ing. This is some­thing I often work on with bas­soon stu­dents — being in full con­trol of your air means under­stand­ing both the top and bot­tom lim­its of your lungs. I find that young stu­dents in par­tic­u­lar often don’t real­ly have a con­cept of what a deep breath is until I get them to fill their lungs to their absolute max­i­mum. Once they’ve felt what 100% capac­i­ty feels like, it’s usu­al­ly much eas­ier for them to take an 85–90% breath and play with bet­ter sup­port and a big­ger sound. Even though I know the lim­its of my own lungs very well by now, the breath­ing exer­cis­es in yoga help me refine and main­tain my con­trol over my mus­cles of res­pi­ra­tion.

Balance

Six of the class’s twenty-six pos­tures involve bal­anc­ing on one leg, often while extend­ing oth­er limbs out into space in var­i­ous ways. Although stand­ing up and play­ing bas­soon is less acro­bat­ic than many of the­se pos­tures, it still involves being in a some­what unnat­u­ral posi­tion with a heavy asym­met­ri­cal object alter­ing your cen­ter of grav­i­ty. I’ve found that work­ing on the­se pos­tures has helped me feel more secure in being mobile when I’m stand­ing up and play­ing.

Proprioception

Every pos­ture involves var­i­ous minu­ti­ae of body posi­tion­ing: place­ment of the hands, rota­tion of the hips, angle of the feet, direc­tion of your gaze, engag­ing cer­tain mus­cles or mus­cle groups, etc. Keep­ing track of all of the­se things requires a very well-developed sense of pro­pri­o­cep­tion (per­cep­tion of the posi­tion and move­ments of the body). This sense is also essen­tial in bas­soon play­ing. Can you tell with­out a mir­ror whether your embouchure is set up cor­rect­ly? How far your fin­gers are lift­ing above the keys and holes? Whether your left thumb is head­ed for the prop­er flick key? If you’re rais­ing one shoul­der, stick­ing an elbow out, or engag­ing in some oth­er unnec­es­sary motion as you play?

Relaxation

In addi­tion to pay­ing atten­tion to the var­i­ous body parts engaged in a par­tic­u­lar pos­ture, part of the prac­tice of yoga is relax­ing the parts of the body not direct­ly involved. When engaged in a dif­fi­cult pos­ture, it’s very easy to let ten­sion creep into oth­er mus­cles and joints. This most often man­i­fests in the face via gri­maces, flared nos­trils, and the like. Teach­ers often give reminders to relax your face or even to smile at the most awk­ward, dif­fi­cult moments of class. The abil­i­ty to relax under pres­sure is vital to musi­cal per­for­mance, as well. If you let ten­sion build up — par­tic­u­lar­ly in dif­fi­cult musi­cal pas­sages — you won’t play as well, and you make your­self more prone to repet­i­tive stress injuries. Also, relax­ing the fin­gers you’re not using at any given sec­ond will keep them closer to the bas­soon, increas­ing tech­ni­cal facil­i­ty.

Listening

The teach­ers explain each pos­ture as the class does them, but they do not per­form the pos­tures them­selves. And unless you’re next to par­tic­u­lar­ly advanced stu­dents, watch­ing those around you can be of lim­it­ed val­ue. Thus, your main source of infor­ma­tion about the pos­tures is the teacher’s ver­bal descrip­tion. While you’re bal­anc­ing on one foot, using your pro­pri­o­cep­tors to tell you what your oth­er foot is doing, relax­ing your face, and remem­ber­ing to breathe, you have to reserve enough brain pow­er to pay atten­tion to the teacher’s instruc­tions. They will often provide cor­rec­tions once you’re in a pos­ture too, so you can’t tune out in the mid­dle. Sim­i­lar­ly, you have to be able to keep your ears open for audi­to­ry feed­back while you’re read­ing a dif­fi­cult musi­cal pas­sage, pay­ing atten­tion to your fin­ger height, relax­ing your shoul­ders, care­ful­ly man­ag­ing your air, and per­haps keep­ing one eye on a con­duc­tor.

Patience and Acceptance

Even after a year and a half of yoga class­es, I can’t touch my toes with straight legs. My ham­strings are still too inflex­i­ble, but I’m slow­ly improv­ing. In every class there are peo­ple far more flex­i­ble than me who can reach well past their toes — even some who can touch their fore­heads to their toes. Rather than let­ting this frus­trate me, I try to have patience with myself and take the long view. Judg­ing myself based on those more advanced than me (many of whom have been prac­tic­ing yoga for far longer than I have) is unpro­duc­tive at best and depress­ing at worst. But I can take what they do as inspi­ra­tion, and con­cen­trate on mak­ing grad­u­al pro­gress. I think that every musi­cian has had the expe­ri­ence of being flab­ber­gast­ed by hear­ing some­one far more advanced per­form on their instru­ment. The best way to respond to such an expe­ri­ence is not to think “I’ll nev­er play that well,” but to think “I want to be able to do that — what can I do to work towards his or her lev­el of per­for­mance?”.

Fur­ther­more, it’s easy to focus on your per­ceived defi­cien­cies while not rec­og­niz­ing the things at which you excel. For what­ev­er rea­son, I seem to be nat­u­ral­ly quite good at Rab­bit pose, the most intense for­ward bend of the entire series. I didn’t even real­ize I was good at it until my wife remarked on it. While it’s cer­tain­ly impor­tant to iden­ti­fy and work on the things you’re not so great at, it’s also good to pick out the things you already do well. This will both bol­ster your con­fi­dence and allow you show off your best qual­i­ties effec­tive­ly. Not so great at rapid tongu­ing? That’s ok — keep work­ing on it. But in the mean­time, don’t for­get to show­case that [rock­in’ high reg­is­ter | vel­vety tone | fast fin­ger tech­nique | what­ev­er your strength is].

Discipline

When you take your first Bikram class (at least at our stu­dio), the teacher tells you that your goal is to just stay in the room for the entire 90 min­utes. The peo­ple who laugh at the seem­ing sim­plic­i­ty of that goal are often the same peo­ple who fail to attain it. As I said above, between the heat, the dif­fi­cul­ty of the pos­tures, and the hour-and-a-half dura­tion, this class is intense. The only time I have sweat as much as I do in a Bikram class was in high school drum­line camp, car­ry­ing 30-pound tenor drums and march­ing on black­top in the noon­day sun of Ten­nessee in August. And just like in drum­line, in Bikram you are expect­ed to lis­ten, to do what you’re told when you’re told to do it, to stay focused, to remain still when you’re at rest, and to ignore the beads of sweat drip­ping down your face. Devel­op­ing this sort of focus and abil­i­ty to shut out dis­trac­tions is essen­tial in being a calm and col­lect­ed per­former.

Determination and Perseverance

This goes hand-in-hand with my dis­cus­sion of dis­ci­pline above. Many of the pos­tures involve hold­ing very dif­fi­cult posi­tions for what seems like an eter­ni­ty. In fact, there’s one sim­ply called Awk­ward pose that involves bal­anc­ing on your tip­toes while crouch­ing with your thighs par­al­lel to the floor and lock­ing your arms straight out in front of you. The easy things to do are to either not go ful­ly into the pos­ture (half crouch, don’t go all the way up on your toes, let your arms sag, etc.) or to just quit halfway through. But nei­ther of those paths lead to improve­ment. Even when you lose your bal­ance or grip in a pos­ture, the teach­ers exhort you to get right back in and try again. The same goes for musi­cal prac­tice and per­for­mance. A tech­ni­cal pas­sage isn’t clean? Don’t gloss over it, prac­tice until it’s 100% cor­rect. Don’t break that slur for a breath — keep push­ing to the end of the phrase (you’ve explored the low­er end of your lung capac­i­ty, right?). You make a mis­take in per­for­mance? Let it go and play the snot out of the rest of the piece.

Conclusions

As I said above, there are plen­ty of choic­es in how to exer­cise, each with dif­fer­ent ben­e­fits. Play­ing the bas­soon at a high lev­el is such a phys­i­cal act that I think it’s essen­tial to find some form of reg­u­lar phys­i­cal activ­i­ty that works for you. This form of hot yoga has worked well for me, but in the past I’ve also expe­ri­enced great ben­e­fits from swim­ming (par­tic­u­lar­ly in the realms of air man­age­ment, lung capac­i­ty, and effi­cien­cy of oxy­gen pro­cess­ing). What­ev­er you choose to do, be mind­ful about it — fig­ure out how it can help your musi­cian­ship, both direct­ly and indi­rect­ly.


  1. The epony­mous founder of this style of yoga is a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure, and is cur­rent­ly embroiled in law­suits that allege rape, sex­u­al assault, and oth­er supre­me nas­ti­ness. If I can love Wagner’s music while despis­ing the man, I can cer­tain­ly reap the ben­e­fits of this yoga with­out sup­port­ing its prog­en­i­tor. 

  2. Olivia Solon, “Bikram Yoga: Is It Worth the Sweat?Huff­in­g­ton Post, 03/01/2012. 

TuBassoon at U-Nite

TuBassoon at U-Nite

TuBas­soon with mod­ern dancers dur­ing a U-Nite pro­mo shoot for Good Day Sacra­men­to. (Craig Koscho, Sac State Pub­lic Affairs)

On the evening of April 11th, I per­formed as part of the sec­ond annu­al U-Nite, a mini-festival of the arts at Sacramento’s Crock­er Art Muse­um. The event fea­tured fac­ul­ty and stu­dents from the var­i­ous parts of Sacra­men­to State’s Col­lege of Arts and Let­ters. Per­form­ers and exhibitors were sta­tioned around the muse­um, pre­sent­ing short pro­grams of music, dance, film, the­ater, visu­al arts, and the writ­ten word. My col­league Julian Dixon and I played in one of the gal­leries as the duo TuBas­soon.

Sur­round­ed by gor­geous Cal­i­for­nia land­scape paint­ings, we played 25–30 min­utes of music drawn from numer­ous sources. We had pre­vi­ous­ly played P.D.Q. Bach’s “Dutch” Suite for bas­soon and tuba, so that was an easy choice. Although there are at least a cou­ple of oth­er works writ­ten specif­i­cal­ly for bas­soon and tuba, we end­ed up adapt­ing the rest of our reper­toire from oth­er sources. We played the first move­ment of Mozart’s gor­geous Sonata, K. 292 (for bas­soon and cel­lo), one move­ment of a Tele­mann canon­ic sonata, and a suite of short tuba duets by Wal­ter Sear.

The morn­ing of U-Nite, Julian and I were part of a live seg­ment on the morn­ing show Good Day Sacra­men­to. We’re play­ing P.D.Q. Bach’s “Pan­ther Dance” in the back­ground while reporter Court­ney Dempsey inter­views U-Nite’s orga­niz­ers:

Inci­den­tal­ly, if TuBas­soon con­tin­ues, we might just have to make Courtney’s descrip­tion our mot­to. Tubas­soon: A lil’ tuba, a lil’ bas­soon.

After our evening per­for­mance, I was able to catch City­wa­ter’s per­for­mance of a new piece by Stephen Blum­berg, which was great. But unfor­tu­nate­ly, between grab­bing a bite to eat from the muse­um café, get­ting set up, and talk­ing to audi­ence mem­bers after our per­for­mance, that was all I was able to take in. But this video col­lage from Sac State’s Office of Pub­lic Affairs pro­vides an excel­lent overview of what I missed, and shows off the excel­lent range and diver­si­ty of the event:

New Wave Bassoon

Mo 45rpm Single  Cover

In my ongo­ing quest to find bas­soons in unex­pect­ed places, I’ve uncov­ered a new gem. The Mo (or some­times sim­ply “Mo”) was a Dutch New Wave band formed in 1979 by broth­ers Clemens and Huub de Lange. The band had a cou­ple of incar­na­tions, but its ini­tial line­up includ­ed singer Heili Helder, drum­mer Harm Bieger, Clemens de Lange on key­boards, and Huub de Lange on key boards and — you guessed it — bas­soon. Huub de Lange appears to be known most­ly as a choral com­poser now; here’s his Choral­Wiki page. I wrote to him ask­ing some ques­tions about the band, but got no respon­se.

A num­ber of the songs on The Mo’s epony­mous 1980 album include bas­soon. But one song in par­tic­u­lar stands out. “Band With Bas­soon” not only includes Huub de Lange’s bas­soon play­ing, but is also self-referentially about a band that uses a bas­soon! “Band With Bas­soon” also appears on a 45rpm sin­gle from the album (the cov­er of the sin­gle can be seen above). Here it is:

Listen to The Mo - Band With Bassoon

I’ve done my best to tran­scribe the lyrics, but there’s a line of two in the third verse that I just can’t quite make out. If you can fig­ure out what she’s singing there, please let me know.

So, guess what we found on the moon
Down in the crater lake
Don’t think our sto­ry is fake
A band with bas­soon

So, can you imag­ine our joy
They cap­tured us with their sound
Know­ing they couldn’t go wrong
The band with bas­soon

Boy, […play­ing a…]
Just a [lit­tle child]
So he said: “Bas­soon band,
You’ll be the star in our land”

Then, we got into the ship
Tak­in’ ‘em back to the earth
And we sang “Bas­soon band,
You’ll be the star in our land”

So, they’re rock­ing the world with their tune
Young kids, they shout for more
They nev­er seen that before
A band with bas­soon

YouTube, that great repos­i­to­ry of for­got­ten cul­ture, has two videos of The Mo in action. Both seem to be tak­en from about twelfth-generation tape copies of TV broad­casts, but they’re still watch­able. The first is a song called “Nan­cy” that fea­tures Huub de Lange rock­ing out front and cen­ter on bas­soon in a shiny bright blue 80s out­fit:

 

There’s no bas­soon play­ing in “Fred Astaire,” but de Lange has his horn at the ready in a stand next to his key­board:

The $3 Bassoon Reed Case

Case With Reeds

The $3 Reed Case

I have a num­ber of nice reed cas­es: a leather-covered three-reed case that came with my bas­soon, a nine-reed wood­en case by Wise­man, and a cou­ple of beau­ti­ful maple cas­es by Roger Gar­rett. But I always seem to need more lit­tle box­es for trans­port­ing reeds for stu­dents, stash­ing French or peri­od bas­soon reeds, or just to hold over­flow from my oth­er cas­es. My go-to for this sort of thing is the tried-and-true Altoids tin. But Altoids tins are just slight­ly the wrong dimen­sions to be a tru­ly space-efficient reed case, and as a result I’ve always got my eye out for oth­er lit­tle tins or box­es. Ver­mints tins are a marked improve­ment (they’re a bit wider and shal­low­er than Altoids tins). But I recent­ly stum­bled across some lit­tle hinged plas­tic box­es at the Con­tain­er Store that are near­ly per­fect.

Reed Case Tools and Materials

Reed Case Tools and Mate­ri­als

Best of all, they’re only $2 a pop. Add a ~$1 sheet of foam from a craft store and some tools you almost cer­tain­ly already have lying around, and you’ve got a seven-reed case for about $3. Here’s all you’ll need to make one:

Mate­ri­als:

Tools:

  • Duco cement
  • X-acto or util­i­ty knife
  • ruler

You can buy specially-made strips of reed foam from Reeds ‘n Stuff. I’ve used them, and they work well. But the foam hold­ers in my Wise­man case hold reeds in a more com­pact fash­ion, so I decid­ed to basi­cal­ly copy that design for this case. The Wise­man foam isn’t a purpose-made strip but is actu­al­ly made up of mul­ti­ple lit­tle pieces glued togeth­er: tall pieces to go between reeds, short pieces to go under them, and long strips at the top and bot­tom to hold it all togeth­er. Using that method I can fit sev­en reeds in this 94mm-wide plas­tic case; the Reeds ‘n Stuff strip would only fit five in the same space.

Foam Pieces

Emp­ty Box and Foam Pieces

The first step is to cut lit­tle pieces out of the foam sheet. The pre­cise dimen­sions will depend on the thick­ness of your foam — mine is 5mm thick. I decid­ed to make the top and bot­tom strips 6mm wide and the entire cen­ter assem­bly 15mm wide. The cen­ter assem­bly is made up of eight 12mm x 15mm blocks (placed ver­ti­cal­ly) and sev­en 7mm x 15mm blocks (placed hor­i­zon­tal­ly). I neglect­ed to get a good pic­ture of the foam assem­bly itself, but you should be able to fig­ure out how it’s put togeth­er from the fin­ished case pic­tures.

After I cut out all the foam bits, I did a dry fit in the plas­tic box. I hadn’t account­ed for the box’s beveled edges, so I had to trim a bit of foam off the cor­ners of the end pieces. After a lit­tle tri­al and error, I had every­thing fit­ting snug­ly. I made sure the foam assem­bly was squared up to the edges of the box, and then I used my knife to light­ly score the box’s bot­tom to mark the foam’s posi­tion. I removed the foam, and then used some sand­pa­per to rough up the plas­tic where the foam would be glued in. The box’s sur­face is very smooth, so rough­ing it up a bit pro­vides the glue with a bet­ter sur­face to which to adhere.

Then, it’s just a mat­ter of apply­ing glue to the box and to the appro­pri­ate areas of each piece of foam (where they’ll con­tact the box or oth­er foam), and assem­bling it all. I put in the upper nar­row strip first, then built the cen­ter assem­bly from left to right, then applied the bot­tom nar­row strip to square it all up. I cut some more bits of foam in basi­cal­ly a reverse pat­tern so that clos­ing the case clamped it all togeth­er while the glue dried. I picked Duco because that’s some­thing we bas­soon­ists tend to have lying around, but cyano­acry­late (super glue) may actu­al­ly be a bet­ter choice for this sort of plas­tic. Time will tell if I need to re-glue any­thing.

Since I’m plan­ning to use this as an aux­il­iary reed case, I didn’t both­er punch­ing any holes in it. But if you plan to use one of the­se on a day-to-day basis and antic­i­pate putting your reeds away wet, you should provide it with some form of ven­ti­la­tion. I bet a sol­der­ing iron could melt nice lit­tle air holes in this plas­tic — don’t breathe in the fumes, though.

Two Views of the Finished Case

Two Views of the Fin­ished Case

One note about using this case: the reeds are so close togeth­er that you have to tilt them slight­ly to fit them all in (you can see the tilt­ing and over­lap in the pho­to above). I’ve done this for years with my Wise­man case, but it might seem a lit­tle strange if you’ve nev­er done it before. There’s plen­ty of ver­ti­cal clear­ance on both sides for the reeds to sit safe­ly this way, and if you treat both reeds and case with the prop­er care, this con­fig­u­ra­tion shouldn’t cause any prob­lems.

Zwilich Bassoon Concerto

When I was work­ing on my Master’s degree at Flori­da State, I had the great for­tune to have a lesson with Pulitzer Prize-Winning com­poser Ellen Taaf­fe Zwilich on her Con­cer­to for Bas­soon and Orches­tra (1992). At the time, I wrote up a lit­tle report on my expe­ri­ence and post­ed it on a pre­vi­ous incar­na­tion of my web site. I’d more-or less for­got­ten about it (the post, not the expe­ri­ence!) until a cou­ple of days ago. My friend and fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor Nico­lasa Kuster men­tioned that she’d found it while search­ing for infor­ma­tion on the con­cer­to. I’ve decid­ed to repost my expe­ri­ences here, with just a few edits for clar­i­ty.

Late­ly, I’ve been work­ing on Ellen Taaf­fe Zwilich’s bas­soon con­cer­to. I want­ed to work on some­thing new (to me) for this year’s con­cer­to com­pe­ti­tion. I con­sult­ed with pro­fes­sor [Jef­frey] Keeseck­er, and he sug­gest­ed either the Jolivet Con­cer­to or the Zwilich. Both are tough, but he said that the Zwilich is more both audience- and performer-friendly. I ordered a CD, lis­tened to the piece, and decid­ed to play it. Anoth­er rea­son for choos­ing the Zwilich is that she is on fac­ul­ty at FSU. She is the Fran­cis Eppes Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor of Com­po­si­tion, but is only in res­i­dence for one week each semes­ter. A few weeks ago, I found out that she’d soon be in town, and I man­aged to get an appoint­ment with her.

I was quite ner­vous in the days lead­ing up to my lesson. I’d been prac­tic­ing the piece like crazy. After all, it’s not every day that you play a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer’s piece for her. When I arrived at the appoint­ed time, I found that Dr. Zwilich had been double-booked. I had some time to spare, so I let the oth­er stu­dent, who is pur­su­ing a Mas­ters in com­po­si­tion, go first. I wait­ed out­side for half an hour, then my turn came.

Dr. Zwilich was very laid-back and friend­ly. She said that while she’d enjoyed writ­ing for the bas­soon, she doesn’t com­plete­ly under­stand the instru­ment, and cer­tain­ly doesn’t under­stand why any­one would want to play it. I have to say that I often agree with her! Appar­ent­ly when Nan­cy Goeres, the prin­ci­pal bas­soon­ist of the Pitts­burgh Sym­pho­ny and ded­i­ca­tee of the work, exam­ined the first move­ment of the work-in-progress, she said that she liked it, but that it need­ed to be hard­er to be a con­cer­to. So, Zwilich turned around and wrote a sec­ond move­ment based on octa­ton­ic scales with lots of sixteenth-note runs at quar­ter note equals 168bpm. When Goeres received that move­ment she asked, “What did I do, wave a red cape at a bull?”

I start­ed by ask­ing a few ques­tions about artic­u­la­tion, phras­ing, and her nota­tion. Then, I played the first move­ment and much of the sec­ond (and final) move­ment. Dr. Zwilich seemed quite hap­py with what I was doing, and was com­pli­men­ta­ry of my play­ing. She had a few gen­er­al com­ments about the first move­ment, and offered some sug­ges­tions for attack­ing the blaz­ing­ly fast sec­ond move­ment. She also want­ed me to change a cou­ple of things in the sec­ond move­ment caden­za. For­tu­nate­ly, many of her sug­ges­tions and changes will actu­al­ly make the piece eas­ier to play.

We end­ed up going twen­ty min­utes over into the next person’s time, so I got almost the full hour I’d been allot­ted, despite her being dou­ble booked. Before I left, she com­pli­ment­ed my play­ing again, and asked me to keep her post­ed about my pro­gress in the con­cer­to com­pe­ti­tion. I’m very glad that I had the chance to talk to and be coached by Ellen Zwilich. It’s not often that a musi­cian, let alone a stu­dent, is offered the chance to work one-on-one with an emi­nent com­poser on one of their pieces.

Although I didn’t end up win­ning the com­pe­ti­tion, I did per­form the Con­cer­to in reduc­tion (with piano and per­cus­sion) a cou­ple of times in the fol­low­ing year or two. It’s prob­a­bly about time for me to revis­it the piece!