Topic: Bassoonists wed!!

Heidi Vanderbilt-Brown and Drew Popper

Ashley Gilbertson for The New York Times

The couple declined to play their bassoons at their wedding at Chelsea Piers. But they did waltz, to "All of These Dreams" by Phish.

Published: June 26, 2005
"EVERY instrument has an archetype," Eric Tipler said. "Trumpet players are outgoing. Trombone players are usually jolly. Flutists can be high-strung. But the bassoon is just this quirky instrument that attracts quirky, good people."

So it was for his friends Andrew Michael Popper and Heidi Vanderbilt-Brown, who played bassoon beside each other in the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra in the mid-1990's. Whenever there was a break in a piece, they would chat so much that Ms. Vanderbilt-Brown, now 28, said that her musicologist father and flutist mother once asked why "the conductor didn't yell at us for talking so much."

Dr. Popper, who is known as Drew, and is now 30, said, "I'm not sure it's possible to tell what someone's like by how he or she plays, but I can sometimes get a vague idea of what someone is like by what instrument he or she plays. In an orchestra, the 'fun-loving quotient' tends to increase as one moves farther away from the conductor." The bassoons are seated somewhere in the middle. In the orchestra world, they are the moderates.

Ms. Vanderbilt-Brown, now a candidate for an M.B.A. at Harvard, and Dr. Popper, now a resident at the Harvard Longwood Psychiatry Residency Training Program, had a lot in common. Both were interested in science and health care, and both were known for fastidiousness: she always had three-by-five note cards at hand; he, a bottle of hand-sanitizer.

Dr. Popper had taken up the bassoon in middle school. He remained devoted to the instrument until, as a college senior, he found his attention wandering from his four-foot woodwind to his section-mate, whom he soon asked to a formal dance.

"I have to ask my boyfriend," was not the response he had been hoping for.

Ms. Vanderbilt-Brown assured the boyfriend that Mr. Popper was just a bassoon buddy. "He kind of gave me a look," she remembered. "But then he was like, 'Um, O.K.' I went and had a great time."

Dr. Popper and Ms. Vanderbilt-Brown lost touch when he graduated. He began his medical studies in New York at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and a year later, she moved to Washington to work in health care consulting.

But when her father developed cancer in 2002, she started to feel nostalgia for old friends. Soon a card arrived in Dr. Popper's mail.

"Broken any reeds lately?" it read.

They arranged to meet during her next visit to Manhattan at an East Village bar. They clicked, and nursed gin and tonics into the night.

But they didn't see each other again until Ms. Vanderbilt-Brown's father died that spring. When Dr. Popper called with condolences, they arranged a weekend visit. And, he confessed his romantic intentions.

Ms. Vanderbilt-Brown said she needed to consider it, then called him a few hours later.

"She said, 'I have three comments and three questions,' " he remembered.

"The statements were: 'This is where I am in my life, I want something long-term, and I'm not a party girl,' " she remembered.

"And the questions were: 'What did you mean exactly by more than friends, are you ready for commitment, and if we had kids, what religion would they be,' " Dr. Popper added.

Satisfied with his answers, she told him they could spend one weekend a month together. These included a trip to London. But romance didn't stifle Ms. Vanderbilt-Brown's organizational zeal.

"Right after they started dating, she made a list of 'observations, conclusions, and next steps,' " said Mr. Tipler. One step was cohabitation. Another was marriage.

"If you meet someone of could-have-gone-professional caliber in an orchestra, it's likely there's an element of passion to them," Ms.Vanderbilt-Brown said. "You know they listen to others, and are likely to be able to work as part of a team."

Ms. Vanderbilt-Brown and Dr. Popper were married on June 11 at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers by Rabbi Charles Agin. The bridegroom's mother, Adrienne Frisch Popper, had earlier suggested that the couple walk to the huppah under an arch of crossed bassoons, but the idea was vetoed. The couple also declined to play at the ceremony.

"We're not that geeky," Dr. Popper said.

Paul Barrett
   -Principal Bassoonist, Honolulu Symphony
    -Lecturer in Bassoon, University of Hawaii