Elisabeth Ellison

Elisabeth Ellison | Chair, Adult Learners

I have the privilege of scheduling a curriculum for Adult bassists for the 2017 convention week, including our long-running Noontime Jam along with an all-levels master class, technique classes, and more. The ISB has some 750 self-identified amateur bassists on our roster, and many levels of working bassists across all styles and age groups; these curriculum offerings are new opportunities to interactively incorporate into our own playing the same techniques we’ve been observing in the presentations, recitals and Young Bassists classes.

What’s the significance of continuing to develop bass technique throughout your adult life, and why should it interest you?

Double bass technique has advanced at a significantly increased pace during the last thirty years; students are mastering more challenging literature at younger ages, and competition for jobs has increased along with ability. We have technique-learning methods now that are exciting ways to access literature that was considered out of reach when many adult bassists were in school. For full-time professionals, volatility in our job market, after having built our careers and families over decades in a given position, can have us auditioning for a critical job against recent grads trained to the highest level in the latest technique. Those who teach are tasked with being fluent in the most up-to-date pedagogy on behalf of their students’ career opportunities.

On an even more personal level, we each began learning the bass with the vision of being an excellent player, whether to the end of making it a career, or simply having the enjoyment of self-expression. Many times, access to instruction diminishes or disappears at the end of our school days, so a continuing-education program for bassists provides avenues for every player to continue making his original dreams reality. Greater facility on our instrument leads to more enjoyment in playing. As we undertake to establish or revive effective daily practicing routines, multiple areas of life benefit as a result. As the bass is a physically-demanding instrument, it’s especially important for adult players to be fit and have developed proprioception in order to avoid the limitations of discomfort or playing injuries.

One further aspect of an adult-bassist curriculum is that it gives us, as a group, the opportunity to act without the limitations of expectations. Have any of you audited a master class and thought “I’d love to be coached by this great bassist, but I’m not about to play in front of high school kids and all these teachers”? Or skipped an important part of audition prep by being too chicken to play your excerpts for your peers? Or felt you just weren’t “talented” when you observed others picking up skills that weren’t working for you? The Adult Learners curriculum is a space where we overcome these concerns. We’re excited about the potential of these 2017 convention sessions to foster openness and the sharing of discoveries between adult bassists of all skill levels – each participant is an important contributor. Looking forward to seeing you there!