Tuesday, May 03, 2005

bassists come, and go

This past week was an eventful one in the New World Symphony bass section. For the alumni reunion concert last Thursday, we had two guest bass players: Tony Manzo (1994-96), a current member of the National Symphony in Washington, D.C.; and Mike Valerio (1997-1999), who is a studio and freelance musician in Los Angeles.

Tony and Mike were both very generous with their time, from coaching our audition excerpts to hanging out at local bars. Apparently South Beach's bar scene has greatly diminished since they were residents here, and they shared sad reminiscences about all the fun places which have since been boarded up or knocked down to build new condos. The tone of the week was rarely somber, though, as we all had a great time getting to know Tony and Mike and playing Mahler Symphony no. 1 with them.

Tony Manzo and me Posted by Hello

Our section is normally 7 bassists, a bit on the small side, so it was particularly nice to have 9 for Mahler. Everyone was inspired to play their best, not only by Tony and Mike but all the fantastic alumni joining the orchestra, and the sound was noticeably more powerful than normal. We got nice reviews for the Mahler from two local music reviewers, the Larry's Johnson and Budmen.

Mahler 1 was a famous bass solo, and Mike Valerio was justly praised in one of the reviews for creating an incredible opening to the 3rd movement. He did it using my second bass, which of course wasn't mentioned in the review but was doubly impressive as far as I was concerned. Michael Tilson Thomas asked for the solo incredibly soft, leaving the audience wondering what strange instrument could be playing and from what far off place - I had never heard it so quiet, yet with such firm intonation and expressive substance in the sound.

Mike Valerio and Sean O'Hara, post-Mahler Posted by Hello

In addition to Mahler's 1st, we had a chance to play through some other big repertory pieces like Symphonie Fantastique and Don Juan. MTT was in great spirits all week, enjoying seeing old friends and conducting the enhanced NWS orchestra. It was touching to see the kind of rapport and communication taking place between all of the past and current orchestra members. It's no secret that some very talented people have passed through New World, but it was a testament to the quality of the institution that so many engaged, exciting, and expressive musicians chose to return, and told us directly what a beneficial experience NWS was for them.

three little bassists, all in a row... Posted by Hello

Yesterday was the bass audition for the St. Louis Symphony, and two NWS bass players won the two openings there - Sarah Hogan, who has been playing in St. Louis on a one-year contract, and Dave DeRiso, who has been in our section this year. Dave played in the mock audition on Saturday, and played with such precision and power that I was not at all surprised to hear he won the job. It's been an inspiration to hear him play all year, and I'm sure he and Sarah will both have a great time in their new bass section.

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