Topic: OBITUARIES: Dan Dowdakin, bassoonist
Holly Crenshaw - Staff
Thursday, March 2, 2006
For most of his 47 years with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Dan
Dowdakin's bassoon and even-lower contrabassoon added dark, shadowy
contrasts to instruments that were more in the spotlight.
But every now and then, like in the opening strains of Ravel's "Piano
Concerto for Left Hand," he'd get a chance to show off the mournful
beauty of the woodwind family's lowest, most unwieldy member.
"That's such a poignant piece to start with because it was written for a
soldier who lost his right hand in World War I, and then it would be
such a treat when Dan came in and played this lovely contrabassoon solo
at the beginning," said ASO principal bassoonist, Carl Nitchie of Stone
"He loved the sound of the bassoon and was so enthusiastic about it that
it was almost a bit comical. He would sit and talk about bassoon reeds
with anyone who would listen, whether they'd ever seen one or not."
J. Daniel Dowdakin, 76, died of a brain tumor Feb. 27 at his Chamblee
residence. The memorial service will be 2 p.m. Monday at Mount Vernon
Presbyterian Church. Dressler's Jewish Funeral Care is in charge of
The Chicago-area native joined the ASO in 1953 after earning his
master's degree from the Eastman School of Music. When ASO jobs were
still part-time work, he taught music at local high schools and
continued to give lessons on bassoon and piano for the rest of his life.
"He really loved his private students, and they loved him, too, because
he was so patient," said his wife, Alma Dowdakin. "So many people were
crazy about him because he was a great guy. Like my sister said, even
his in-laws loved him, and that says a lot."
The couple sang in their church choir together, and at home Mr. Dowdakin
played the piano for hours while his wife performed everything from
Jerome Kern tunes to Sigmund Romberg compositions.
When he had time to relax, he ploughed through almost everything that
historian David McCullough wrote and listened to old Frank Sinatra and
Perry Como recordings.
Something of a health nut, Mr. Dowdakin took his vitamins and exercised
religiously every day, usually with an early morning four-mile walk
around his neighborhood.
"I joined the orchestra in 1971 and when Dan retired in 2000, I don't
think he looked a day older in those 30 years," Mr. Nitchie said.
Until his knees started acting up, Mr. Dowdakin ran the Peachtree Road
Race for years and touted running's mental health benefits.
"Orchestra work can be very tense and sometimes not fun," he said in a
1987 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article. "But this makes you realize
it is fun and a good job."
He admitted flat out, though, that he thought running was "a pure pain."
"But after you stop hitting your head against the wall, you realize what
good shape you're in," he said.
"I'm a wind player and you need to not run out of air. I've got 16 feet
of bassoon pipe. Even the tuba can't get as low as I can."
Survivors include a son, David Dowdakin of Chamblee; a daughter, Dana
Klest of Atlanta; a brother, Tom Dowdakin of Vista, Calif.; three
grandchildren; and two step-grandchildren.
-Principal Bassoonist, Honolulu Symphony
-Lecturer in Bassoon, University of Hawaii