This is a post from National Symphony Orchestra bassist Jeff Weisner. Jeff also teaches bass at The Peabody Institute in Baltimore and co-authors the blog PeabodyDoubleBass. Click here for all of Jeff’s doublebassblog.org posts.
I’m on the plane on the way back from our South Carolina Residency, which seemed to me to be very successful overall. Our orchestra concerts were well attended and always well received, especially given the less-than-ideal scheduling on this trip – most of our shows were early in the week, on nights when you won’t get great attendance. My own outreach activities were a lot of fun as well, although there were the usual odd moments that happen on Residency….
Our first bass quartet concert, in tiny Lancaster, was a “Breakfast with the Arts” event. This required four sleepy bass players be on the bus by 7:00 a.m., definitely making this the earliest bass ensemble event I’ve ever been a part of. The concert was in a lovely old home, and was packed. The crowd was very appreciative – there was an Italian gentleman in the audience who gave us shouts of “Bravi!” that would put the average Metropolitan Opera audience to shame. Sadly, our evening concert in Batesburg the next day was a little more problematic in the audience department. When we arrived, the presenter informed us that they didn’t usually present concerts on Wednesday night because “most folks in town would be at a Bible study that night” and thus wouldn’t come. Sure enough, attendance was pretty sparse, and in the gigantic 1,000-seat hall, the audience looked even more pitiful! Still, we were pros and turned in a good show.
I also gave a master class for bass students at the University of South Carolina. The bass teacher there, Craig Butterfield, has been there for three years and is clearly doing some serious recruiting and putting together a strong bass studio. Three students played for me and did a great job.
I said it before, but I’m very proud that my orchestra does this program. The kind of funding and PR mojo that a large American orchestra can bring to these events really gives a booster shot to many local arts groups who otherwise have to fight for any press coverage at all. Plus, these events can be incredibly energizing and fun for us musicians, as we get to take our work in front of audiences that are truly hungry for what we’re offering, rather than striving to interest bored big-city elites who are already feeling culturally overstimulated. If only every orchestra did it…..