I had the pleasure of checking out the University of Illinois bass quartet recently (October 22, 2008). This ensemble is comprised of University of Illinois bass professor Michael Cameron and U of I doctoral students Garold Fowler, Hunter Capoccioni, and Alex McHattie, and they were in the midst of doing a tour of top-tier high school programs when I saw them perform.
My life seems to be filled with serendipitous moments, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Michael Cameron would be visiting Libertyville High School (where I’m currently student teaching) and doing some work with the bass students. These bass players also happened to be my private students, so it was neat to see my education degree, private teaching studio, and blog world intersect like this.
The quartet played several arrangements by professor Cameron, who has recently launched a publishing company of his own (visit it at BassScores.com). They played for all the string players at the high school, not just the bassists, giving all those violinists, violists, and cellists a chance to hear some fine bass ensemble playing–always a good thing for our instrument!
As you might expect, each of the four bassists in the ensemble had their own unique approach to the bass. One player had the “un-tailpiece” setup consisting of wires stringing together the strings between bridge an endpin socket. Another player had one of the large wooden endpins that have become popular in recent years. These sorts of unusual pieces of gear prompted menu questions from the students, and the quartet members expertly fielded these questions along with more general inquiries about music schools, practicing, and their personal musical backgrounds.
Michael Cameron also did a master class with the bass students, giving them helpful technical advice.
I wonder how many other schools use a bass quartet like this to help promote their institution’s bass programs. What a great experience for both the ensemble and the high scool students. The quartet members get a chance to do a lot of performances (and what group doesn’t want that?), the high school students get to hear a great performance and participate in a master class, and the university gets an opportunity to do some recruiting. Very cool.