From time to time, IDRS will choose to make certain articles on the IDRS website available to readers without subscription. This will be done in cases where an article stands to serve a public demonstrably broader than that which would have cause to be regular members of the Society. Decisions concerning the posting (and removal) of such articles will be at the discretion of the IDRS Print Editors in consultation with the IDRS President and Digital Marketing and Communications Coordinator.
Explore Excerpts from The Double Reed
The State of the Bassoon in Music Programs Across the U.S.
Dr. Shannon Lowe (Gainesville, Florida)
While teaching at a small regional institution located in the Southeast, I struggled with recruiting bassoonists. I sent out fliers, emails, posted YouTube videos of all-state etudes, and co-hosted numerous double reed days. No matter what I tried or what events I scheduled, I always encountered poor showings of student bassoonists. While visiting middle and high schools to work with and recruit bassoonists for my program, in most cases, I was met with an ensemble director saying “Well, we do not have any bassoonists in our program,” or “Since we do not have any bassoons to give out, I cannot start any students on the instrument .” It was indeed disheartening and led me to wonder what the root cause of this lack of bassoonists was. I contemplated my own beginnings on the instrument . After all, I had no idea what the bassoon was when I chose it. All I knew, as a sixth grader excited for band, was that I wanted to play something different. I asked my band director if I could play the English horn, and he said that the program did not own one. He offered oboe or bassoon to me. I chose the bassoon because the name sounded cool. That day, he handed me the case with a beginning band book and said “Here you go. I have no idea how to teach this. You are on your own .” The instrument I received was in poor condition and beat up from years of neglect. With no guided instruction in the first stages of learning the bassoon, I was really left to figure it out on my own.
Conductors and Orchestras
John Steinmetz (Altadena, California)
After several decades of orchestral playing, I have come to believe that the power relations between players and conductors often prevent orchestras from reaching their potential. Conductors have too much power, and that power too often hampers players, orchestra organizations, and conductors themselves. The culture of communication in orchestras tends to allow musical and interpersonal problems to fester. To make matters worse, conductors generally receive little or no supervision; their superiors are non-musicians who cannot assess a conductor’s effectiveness.
Despite investing considerable energy in coping with these problems, orchestras don’t discuss them much. I want to encourage discussion so that orchestras can search for solutions. My purpose here is to stimulate conversation.
From Bassoonist to Nobel Laureate: An Interview with Thomas Südhof
Ryan D. Romine (Winchester, Virginia)
In October of 2013, neuroscientist Thomas Südhof was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on explaining the mechanisms of the presynaptic neuron. This research, exploring what happens when the presynaptic mechanism works correctly as well as when it malfunctions, gives us a much deeper view into how the healthy brain relays information and how conditions such as autism and Alzheimer’s disrupt that relay process.
But what does this have to do with double reeds? In a fantastic set of coincidences mirroring 2013’s Nobel win in Physiology or Medicine (see our interview with Dr. Thomas Südhof in The Double Reed Vol. 36, no. 4), one of the 2014 laureates, William E. Moerner, is also a professor at Stanford University AND once played the bassoon! Might there be a connection between the school, the instrument, and the prize? Only time will tell. But, in the meantime, Dr. Moerner has very kindly agreed to share a few thoughts with our readers.