PEOPLE

Joseph Guastafeste

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Musical insights from the American double bassist

In terms of audience perception, the bass is considered the foundation of the orchestra

I give two pieces of advice to all my bass students. First, practise, practise, practise. Second, listen to great cellists.

A section leader must know the music inside out and must also have courage, focus and good nerves.

The best piece of advice I ever had was from Fred Zimmermann at the Juilliard School. He said to ‘get out there and play’ and not stick around for a diploma.

A principal must be the contact person for the section when it comes to asking questions of a conductor. I think it’s a drag for a maestro when questions come popping up from all over.  

Playing in an orchestra isn’t any different from any other job: there's a hierarchy of responsibility. You might not like what the boss is doing, but he’s the boss, whether that’s the conductor or the section leader. You may be able to discuss some differences, but the boss has the final say.

In terms of audience perception, the bass is still considered the foundation of the orchestra, rather than a solo instrument. But within the music business, perceptions have changed – it is now accepted much more as a solo instrument, in jazz as well as classical circles.

Originally published in The Strad, February 2011. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.

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