Last week at the International Double Reed Society Conference I had a memorable experience.
The Conference was held on the campus of Lawrence University. On the bottom level of its Warsh Center was a wonderful cafeteria where many of the attendees ate lunch.
One afternoon I bought lunch and sat down at a table of bassoonists. We were all discussing various technical matters related to the bassoon when an elderly woman came by and sat down next to me.
She started a familiar conversation with me. She is 81 years old and had never heard a bassoonist play a solo before. I had played on the concert the night before and she heard me. Her eyes lit up with excitement as she described the wonder she felt at hearing what a bassoon sounded like up close. She said she'd waited 81 years to hear the sound of a bassoon!
I noticed she was not wearing the lanyard we all wore as Conference participants. She must have been one of the very few people in the cafeteria not directly involved with the Conference.
Unlike the rest of us who were there to advance careers, perform new pieces, sell merchandise, etc., she was attending just to hear the instruments and our music.
After lunch, I walked across the campus to another venue. On my way, she passed me on her bike (!) and wished me a good day! She was a local resident, just taking advantage of the unique opportunity to hear music for double reed instruments on a particular week in June in her town!
It occurs to me that it is really people like this woman for whom we perform. Many people have heard a violinist play a solo, but I'm sure many of you share the experience I've had when I say, that after 40 years of a career as a bassoonist, I still hear from audience members who have NEVER heard a bassoonist play a solo.
As we seek levels of ever rarefied perfection in our practicing, it's vital for us to rememberthat the audience member's perspective is often that of someone hearing our music and our instrument for the first time!