Pittsburgh Double Bass Symposium 2020

As always, this annual event is free and open to the public, taking place in the Kresge Theater on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University.

With Micah Howard · Pittsburgh, PA

It was a pleasure to make a return trip to the Pittsburgh Double Bass Symposium this year after having such a great time at the 2019 event.

Event organizer Micah Howard brings together students, teachers, and performers from Pittsburgh and beyond, mixing in new clinicians with past guests.

The Symposium Experience

The day kicked off with “Jeff Mangone and Friends” performing the Dvorak Quintet.

Jeff was joined by Anne Moskal and Dawn Posey, Violins, Jennifer Gerhard Mangone, Viola, and Kathleen Melucci, ‘Cello

This heartfelt performance was dedicated to Amanda Rice-Johnston, a wonderful person and Pittsburgh-area freelancer who suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm in the fall of 2019.

I have known Amanda for over a decade and had her on my podcast in the summer of 2019, just a few months before this aneurysm happened. Amanda is recovering and is surrounded by loving friends and family. Her friends and family are also running a gofundme campaign to help with her ongoing medical expenses. I wish Amanda all the best and can’t wait for her to fully recover.

Lauren Pierce

Next up was a master class with Lauren Pierce. Lauren is one of my favorite people in the bass world, and I’ve had her on my podcast many times over the years.

Lauren Pierce working with Carnegie Mellon Master of Music student Andrew Ballard

Lauren has built up quite a career in recent years as a soloist, teacher, and entrepreneur. It was great to catch up with her in person and see her work with some of Carnegie Mellon’s graduate students.

Examining the music with Carnegie Mellon Master of Music student Daniel Murray

Max Dimoff

After lunch, Max Dimoff conducted a master class for several students. In addition to serving as principal bassist of The Cleveland Orchestra for over 20 years, Max joined the faculty at The University of Michigan in 2017.

At last year’s symposium, Max joined me in a panel discussion on auditioning along with Jeff Turner, Rex Surany, Cory Palmer, and Jeff Mangone.

Additionally, Max has an interesting team teaching setup with Ranaan Meyer which we covered on a past podcast episode. It’s always a treat to see Max teach!

Recital: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Double Bass Section

This symposium has a remarkable tradition of bringing the entire PSO bass section onstage to play solos, duets, and ensemble pieces. It’s hard to think of many other orchestras in which the entire bass section is involved like this, and it’s really cool to hear all the different playing styles and repertoire selections from these fine musicians.

Here’s a rundown of what we heard, and you can hear clips of everything played in the video for this blog post (scroll back up to find it).

Allegro, Concerto No. 2 by Giovanni Bottesini, performed by John Moore and Rodrigo Ojeda

Adagio from the ballet “Unforgettable 1919” by Dimitri Shostakovich, performed by Joe Campagna and Rodrigo Ojeda

“La plus que lente” by Claude Debussy, performed by Peter Guild and Rodrigo Ojeda

Nocturne for Double Bass and Piano by Edvard Baghdasaryan, transcribed by Paul Matz, performed by Paul Matz and Rodrigo Ojeda

Romanza Drammatica (Elegy, Op. 20) by Giovanni Bottesini, performed by Aaron White and Rodrigo Ojeda

Allegro and Andante, Concerto for Double Bass and Piano by Serge Koussevitsky, performed by Brandon McLean and Rodrigo Ojeda

Ballad: Moderato, Concertino for Double Bass and Piano by Lars-Erik Larson, performed by Micah Howard and Rodrigo Ojeda

Angel Suite by Astor Piazzolla, arranged by Brent Edmondson, performed by Micah Howard and Jeffrey Turner

Highlights from “Dark with Excessive Bright”, Double Bass Concerto by Missy Mazzoli, performed by Jeffrey Turner and Rodrigo Ojeda

Nessun Dorma (Turandot) by Giacomo Puccini, arranged by David Heyes, performed by the PSO Double Bass Section

Strauss in the Dog House by Daryl Runswick, performed by the PSO Double Bass Section

“Slip Slidin’ Away” by Paul Simon, arranged for Voice and Double Bass Quartet by Peter Guild, performed by Tania Grubbs, Jeff Grubbs, Peter Guild, Paul Matz and Aaron White

Lawrence Hurst

After a dinner break, Lawrence Hurst ran a master class. I love seeing Mr. Hurst teach, learning so much about what it really takes to play bass at the highest level.

Lawrence Hurst being welcomed to the stage by Micah Howard

Lawrence Hurst was one of my early podcast guests, and I chatted with him about all kinds of topics with my longtime co-host and former Hurst student John Grillo.

Mr. Hurst working with Carnegie Mellon Master of Music student Mark Stroud

Mr. Hurst is such an expressive teacher, and I found myself shooting a ton of photos with him in action.

Exploring the range of the bass with Mr. Hurst and Mark
Soliciting feedback from the audience
Listening with intensity
Proving a point with Advanced Music Studies student Emily Tarantino

Recital: Kevin Brown

The symposium concluded with an excellent program featuring Detroit Symphony principal bassist and Michigan State faculty Kevin Brown, who is also a past podcast guest.

In addition to playing the first Bach Cello Suite and Death and Life from Musical Humors by Tobias Hume, Kevin was joined in this Baroque-era program by Detroit-area bassist Jessica Grabbe for a performance of Sonata No. 3 for Two Violoncellos by Boccherini.

Final Thoughts

Events like this are a major investment in time and resources. A huge shout-out to Micah Howard for uniting the Pittsburgh area double bass community with this top-flight event.

check out Micah’s excellent app iDoubleBass

A big thanks also to Carnegie Mellon University for hosting this event, and also to event sponsors and exhibitors Bob’s House of Basses, Discover Double Bass, Guarneri House, Heartland String Bass Shop, Ottava Imports, Shank’s Strings, Sound Spike Endpins, Upton Bass, and Peter Zaret and Sons Violins for their support.

Personally, I left the day inspired and excited to dig into my own bass playing with a fresh perspective, and I can’t wait to check out the 2021 Pittsburgh Double Bass Symposium!

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