Monday, August 27, 2012

Glorious Youth in Our Company, Part II - Nico Comes to Toronto

In September, 2011, Guy and I had the privilege of flying to Prince Edward Island for a showcase.  This has led to a mini-tour being booked for 2013 with 3 concerts in  PEI and Nova Scotia.
For me, the trip was unforgettable because I LOVE to travel and play, LOVE to do these things with my sensual, crazy, fun (so musical)  Guy Few and LOVE it when this leads to more tours.  At a personal level, it was utterly unforgettable because I met many young musicians but in particular, a fourteen-year old boy who had just started the bassoon and was mad keen enough to convince his mother to drive from Frederickton, New Brunswick to meet me.

As you can see from the comments in this article, many people helped make this possible (see article), but above all, it was Nico’s clarity about wanting to know more about the bassoon and his remarkable poise, gentle confidence and clear devotion to an art that was only a whiff in the air at this stage of his career.

The conference was far busier than I had thought it would be and we had only a little time to talk and no time for the lesson I had promised to Nico.  The organizers were kind enough to admit Nico and his Mom to our private showcase and I gave him a our newly-released After Hours CD.  Nico and I corresponded throughout the year and in the spring, Nico told me that he had saved $400 towards reed tools.

He has been frustrated by the fact that he cannot practise after 11:00 p.m. in his apartment building (boy after my own heart) and thought that he could use that time to make reeds if he knew how.  I agreed, but rather than try to teach him how to make reeds over email, I suggested that he buy a plane ticket with his savings and we would start reed lessons.  

That is exactly what he did, and he arrived in Toronto at 7 a.m. on August 16 and I picked him up for a whirlwind 2.5 days of reed-making, music-listening, bassoon-trying and meeting another gifted student (Robert Lu) and several professionals (Michael Sweeney, Sam Banks, Shane Wieler, Gary Armstrong, Ziming Wan, Camille Watts, Gillian Mackay, Jeff Reyolds, to drop just a few names).  Nico spent considerable time poring over the heaps of music that I had on loan from the University of Toronto library and helped me haul even more of this music.

I assembled a tool kit for him from my collection of less-used knives, files etc and also gave him one of my father’s beautiful, rare white oak easels.  I know that this boy will appreciate everything and use it to the best of his ability.  I know that he will repay any generosity that I may have shown in how he treats his students in the future.

In a way, this was the first concrete act of the Council of Canadian Bassoonists, my very fledgling charitable organization that is devoted to helping young players gain the tools to become performers and to have the vision to see beyond the pre-set limits of our instrument.  Nico is the perfect candidate... when we spent time listening to recordings, he would deliver concise and accurate assessments of the players and music.  Always appreciative of the skills and efforts of others, he equally had no hesitation whatsoever in identifying generic, one-dimensional playing or writing.  I enjoyed his insights so much and he also led me to some performances and pieces that I knew nothing about.  

I decided to show Nico EVERYTHING about my methods of freehand shaping, profiling and reed-making.  He did the freehand work with the very sharp xacto knife under my eagle-eyed stare and produced a very respectable shape.  We continued with the profiling the next day as we had appointments to try Fox bassoons and meet with Michael Sweeney about Vivaldi Concerti (more on that later).  Though Nico learned very quickly, I had only enough time to show him the freehand shaping, profiling and blank-making.  He observed me performing all of these steps and he also did these things.  I showed him how to wrap and encouraged him to practise on all of his pencils!  The next step will be trimming and finishing the reed which I hope we can do in the coming months, or at the very latest, when I am on tour in the Maritimes in 2013.

I feel that my mission in life is to perform, yet the opportunity to teach gifted, devoted young players seems to be inextricably connected to this ambition.  

Thank you, Nico, for giving me your time and your incredibly valuable enthusiasm that has reminded me of every good reason for continuing in this art form.

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