Northwestern University double bass faculty member DaXun Zhang has accepted a position with the University of Texas-Austin beginning Fall 2007 and will be leaving his Northwestern teaching post. This is sad news for the double bass community in Chicago, but great news for DaXun’s future career.
Northwestern University has a long history of undervaluing their double bass faculty. This trend goes back to the days of legendary Chicago Symphony member and double bass pedagogue Warren Benfield, who left Northwestern University for DePaul University after frustrations with unresponsive faculty. This trend continued during Jeff Bradetich’s years as double bass professor. Jeff built Northwestern into a powerhouse of double bass instruction in the 1980’s and 90’s, but he left for the University of North Texas in 1994 for reasons ultimately similar to Benfield’s.
For the next 11 years (1994-2005), Northwestern hired Chicago Symphony double bass section member Michael Hovnanian to teach double bass at the institution. Michael attracted many extremely talented students to the institution, but the school continued their ineffectual treatment of double bass faculty, conducting a series of increasingly incompetent and bungled searches while undervaluing the great talent they had under their noses.
Greg Sarchet (Lyric Opera of Chicago and Northeastern University) joined Michael on the double bass faculty for Northwestern University during the mid-2000’s, dividing up the studio. The Northwestern music faculty conducted another search (their fourth in ten years) for a full-time faculty member, hiring DaXun two years ago.
DaXun is a rare and incredible talent, and Northwestern should have made every effort to retain him of faculty. What did they do? They made him a “lecturer of string bass’.
Let me tell you something–I doubt that UT-Austin will be making him a lecturer of bass. Undoubtedly, he will be on a tenure track in a school that understands the incredible talent of this amazing artist.
Northwestern continues its decades-long track record of inconsideration and incompetence in the hiring and retention of double bass faculty members. This is not characteristic of them in other instrumental realms, but it certainly is so on the bass.
Northwestern–shame on you.