How did I end up here? I’d never even heard of the International Society of Bassists until three weeks ago, when I decided to head out to New York City to do a Masters audition at Mannes College. It’s hard for me to say whether I had any real motivation for this trip, other than a late audition period and a general lack of direction in life since my undergrad. Oh, and also an excuse for this prairie Canadian to visit New York City.And then the plan was to come to Rochester on my way to Montreal for another audition, which almost fell through as I burned through my scant budget and nearly cut off my left hand ring finger (“3rd finger” to a bassist). But then some last minute arrangements came through, and I ended up here… the ISB Convention at Eastman School in Rochester, NY.
Monday, June 3
7pm: Dinner with Hunter, Kirsten, Julie, Rich, and Giovanni Bottesini
8pm: Yi-Jung-Su (2011 Solo Competition Winner)
9pm: Or Baraket (2011 Jazz Competition Winner)
First impressions upon arrival: I am hungry. Actually, before that, I am reminded of bassist camaraderie as another bassist introduced himself on the train. We bassists seem to have a way of finding each other… maybe the Lemur Music Cappucino Bow Case on my backpack gave me away. I used to feel unique for carrying that thing. But that was before I got here.
My hunger was combining with a general sense of being completely alone, so I took care of the two things in one swoop by finding a Belgian tavern and inviting myself to sit with a trio who had a bass lying next to their table. Turned out they actually were a trio, Hunter Capoccioni’s string trio who were presenting the next day. Soon I felt right at home, as the conversation turned to familiar topics, such as schools and lessons and how our bartender should pretend his name is Giovanni Bottesini to boost his tips this week.
Seriously though, I’m expecting to be a little overwhelmed by the amount of bassists I meet here. Back home in Winnipeg I’m a rarity; the first and only classical bass student at my university in a decade. It means lots of opportunities, but a lack of motivation at the same time. What I’m hoping to get out of this convention is a little more awareness of the bass world at large.
So I head in to Kodak Hall, the large performance space at Eastman. This theater is beautiful. I look up, and around, and behind me, and I am in a fantasy world of architecture, art, and comfort. I keep asking myself if that’s the backdrop of the stage, or if this is the set of a Greco- Roman opera. The performer fits into the fantasy in a bright, flowing gown, her bass singing with virtuosity and precision, filling the vast hall.
This is perhaps the perfect image to capture what the convention is about: a performer dwarfed by her surroundings, being celebrated for her performance. And that’s what we’re here to do: to celebrate the performance of the unsung, the background, the supporting musician: the bassist.
Graham Isaak is one of our roving reporters covering the events of ISB 2013.