He decided to change that.
After ten years of steady growth, UTRGV has become a recognized double bass powerhouse, with world-class college bass students. His work has also created a vibrant double bass community throughout the Rio Grande Valley, with over 100 bass players enrolling each year for ¡Viva el Bajo!
It was an honor for me to be a clinician for this special 10th anniversary festival! In addition to bringing back Jeff Bradetich for this year’s event, George invited the following double bass clinicians:
- Lloyd Goldstein – certified music practitioner at Moffitt Cancer Center
- Carlos Gaviria – Stephen F. Austin State University
- David Dawson – Texas State University
- Alex Ritter – Federal University of Rio Grandee do Sul
- Mark Morton – Texas Tech University
- Jack Unzicker – University of Texas Arlington
These double bass clinicians were joined by Rebecca Coberly (UTRGV voice professor), Janice Fehlauer (Kingwood Music School), and Martha Walvoord (UT Arlington violin professor).
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked into the new Performing Arts Complex of the UTRGV School of Music. Completed in 2015, this facility offers an acoustically fabulous 1000-seat concert hall, four large rehearsal halls, and much more. It is one of the nicest music facilities I’ve ever laid eyes on, and it was an outstanding venue for this event.
Diving into the Festival
Here’s my personal highlight reel from the 2017 festival!
Thursday, May 18
Thursday was filled with pre-festival events prior to the official start of the event on Friday.
I joined George Amorim and Lloyd Goldstein Thursday morning as Lloyd played in the lobby of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. Lloyd’s work as a certified music practitioner is both moving and inspiring, and it was wonderful to watch him in his element. Hearing the double bass reverberate down the halls and watching the eyes of people in the lobby light up as they heard this great playing was a real treat.
Here’s a short clip (excuse the shakiness–too much coffee on my part!) of Lloyd playing one of his excellent compositions in the lobby:
Later that afternoon, I did a presentation on one of my favorite topics: Music and Business. I covered a wide range of topics, including my exploding car story. Skip ahead a couple minutes if you’re familiar with that bizarre tale:
The night wrapped up with a Bach Showcase Concert featuring the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Bach Cello Suites performed by UTRGV students Andres Vela, Daniel Morehead, and Gabriel Preusse. These there students are joined by George to form the UTRGV Bass Quartet, which will be performing at the 2017 International Society of Bassists Convention in Ithaca, New York in a few short weeks.
Friday, May 19
Young bassists began streaming into the PAC bright and early on Friday and were outfitted with music, badges, folders, and schedules. They assembled into All-Region and All-State classes led by Mark Morton and David Dawson.
Alex Ritter also presented a fascinating class on articulation that morning, delving into the specific terminology and technique between legato, staccato, spiccato, and every imaginable variant.
This well-organized look at articulation filled me with fuel for many months of upcoming lessons with my own students.
The young bassists spent the afternoon working on bass ensemble music. Lloyd Goldstein also presented a lecture/demonstration describing his work in the Arts in Medicine program at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida.
The Opening Night Gala featured a performance by Jeff Bradetich. Hearing Jeff play took me back to all those times in high school that I spent listening over and over to Jeff’s solo albums. What a player!
Jeff was joined by Janice Fehlauer (piano), Rebecca Coberly (soprano), Jack Unzicker, and George Amorim in this wonderful program:
- Sonata No. 2 in g, Op. 5 No. 2 – Beethoven
- Chopin Terzetto – Tutto il Mondo Serra – Bottesini
- Prelude, from Five Pieces for two violins and piano – Shostakovich
- Schloemo – Bloch
- Beret, Beurre and Cornichorns – Viret
- Czardas – Monti
Here’s a shot of Jeff performing with Jack Unzicker and George Amorim during the recital:
More about Jeff
The Second International Bradetich Solo Competition will be taking place this September. Jeff and I did an interview about it earlier this year, and I’ll be covering the event as well. Look forward to learning more about this great event soon!
I also recently interviewed Artem Chirkov, the winner of the first Bradetich Competition. If you’d like to hear Artem sing a song about Texas (and you really must hear that), check out that interview!
We were also treated to some fantastic South Texas Mexican food plus a Mariachi performance that put a smile on all of our faces.
Saturday, May 20
Saturday was filled with great master classes and performances. Mark Morton, Jeff Bradetich, and Jack Unzicker, Lloyd Goldstein, David Dawson, Carlos Gaviria, and I all presented master classes. Seeing my friends and colleagues teach is the best way to fill my teaching tank with fuel for the next several months of lesson ideas!
Mark Morton played a monster recital consisting of the 4th, 5th, and 6th Bach Cello Suites. These were performed masterfully, filling the large hall with the rich tones of his Italian solo bass. I honestly don’t know how he was able to play all three of these suites in a row—I was exhausted just watching from the audience!
Many of George’s students performed selections from Bottesini for an afternoon recital, which was a real treat as well. Here’s who played what:
- Elegy – John Hunter
- Reverie – Gabe Ramon
- Introduzione e Gavotta – Sofia Leal DeLeon
- Nel cor pui non mi sento – Gabriel Preusse
- Bolero – Diego Garza
- Capriccio di Bravura – Daniel Morehead
- Fantasia on Themes from ‘La Sonnambula’ – Andres Vela
¡Viva el Bajo! LIVE
The evening event was a new direction for the festival. I hosted ¡Viva el Bajo! LIVE, a talk show featuring performances and interviews with clinicians and students.
Check out the video below to see:
- the UTRGV Bass Quartet play two great selections
- me trying unsuccessfully to get George’s students to say something embarrassing
- Lloyd performing and talking about his work in the Moffitt Cancer Center
- Jeff Bradetich reflecting on the state of the double bass
- Jack Unzicker talking about growing up in Alaska and starting the bass while in college
- Mark Morton discussing growing up in Texas, writing his method books, and how playing the piano helps him
This was so much fun!
Sunday, May 21
The festival wrapped up with master classes from Alex Ritter, Jeff Bradetich, and Mark Morton plus a stellar recital from Jack Unzicker and Martha Walvoord.
Jack and Martha are in the middle of commissioning a large number of violin and bass duets from various composers. Sunday’s recital featured new works from George Have, Tom Knific, and Michael Daugherty. All three are fantastic new contributions to the repertoire.
Past Podcast Guests
More Upcoming Performances from these Artists
Jack and Martha will be featured in a few weeks at ISB 2017, as will the UTRGV Bass Quartet and many of the other clinicians from ¡Viva el Bajo! 2017.
I am honored to have been a part of this great event. Given all the great things happening at UTRGV, the future of double bass in South Texas is in good hands!