Pedagogical approaches to six major orchestral excerpts for bassoon
Unger, Ruth Shelly
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There is no single source that simultaneously shines the spotlight on the playing and teaching of several of North America’s finest orchestral bassoonists. Little has been written about the pedagogical approaches of the current generation of bassoonists who hold principal positions in the major American symphony orchestras. While many fine, even exceptional bassoonists teach bassoon with considerable success, the number of distinguished players who hold principal positions in major North American orchestras and also teach at a college, university or conservatory is limited. These players have a unique vantage point because they perform the pieces from which orchestral audition excerpts are taken season after season, in the great halls, with some of the finest conductors. This orchestral repertoire is the everyday fare of these individuals and the mastery of a relatively small collection of excerpts is an inescapable part of preparation for and success in the orchestral audition experience. This study focuses on the pedagogical approaches employed by preeminent player/teachers using six of the standard principal bassoon excerpts to provide a window to discover, view and examine these approaches. For this reason, the study touches on a broad range of related subjects, including but not limited to: interpretation, technique, tone, vibrato, articulation, intonation, rhythm, breath support, practice strategies, audition preparation and audition techniques as well as reeds and reed-making. This study provides a written resource on this topic that includes the voices of three superlative bassoon players whose pedagogical approaches have not been previously disclosed. The study offers readers insight into the interpretation of selected excerpts, expanding the overall information on “how to approach and master” these passages by giving an unprecedented forum to this group of elite player/teachers. The organizational format is divided into five chapters. The first chapter provides an introduction, including an overview of the study as well as biographical information about the three premiere player/teachers. Chapters two through four, with one chapter devoted to each of the player/teachers, present information from the Orchestral Excerpt Questionnaires, coaching sessions and the interview. The final chapter provides a summary and suggestions for further study.