Trying to see everything you want to at this convention is impossible. So I missed David Gage while trying to wake up, and I missed Bill Mays’s and Tommy Cecil’s Sondheim set while trying to glean all I could from Caroline Emery. The funny thing is that what you plan to see is never what ends up thrilling you; it’s the performer you never knew about, the piece you’d never heard. Saxophonist Steve Wilson told a friend of mine that the best performances happen when no one comes in with an agenda… I think this may be true of audiences as well; you do your best listening when you come in with no expectations.

I’m no expert at this, after all, expectations are how we decide who and what we want to see in a day. My Thursday looked like this:

Thursday, June 6

9am: Breakfast
10am: Composition Competition Winners
11am: Eugene Levinson masterclass
12noon: try basses
2pm: Christopher Brown and other luthiers perform Weill
3pm: Caroline Emery
4pm: revisit favourite basses
6pm: Supper
8pm: Diana Gannett
9:30pm: Chuck Israels with Octet

My musical day began with the experimental side of things, as I scoped out the composer’s competition (I would like to enter a piece myself someday). Eugene Levinson’s masterclass was understandably packed, and we heard some great student performances. Masterclass Tip: if you’re too scared to perform in a class but want to appear brave, sign up as the third, or even fourth person on the list. This improves your chances of getting “missed” in a 45-minute session, and can also result in a private lesson with Paul Ellison!

After returning to the exhibition rooms and then being relieved to hear some soprano notes in a Weill set, I went to Caroline Emery’s session on teaching young bassists. I had heard she was the authority on the subject, and I wasn’t disappointed. Actually, I felt like I was being taught how to teach myself! Look for her upcoming book(s) which will fill some current gaps in graded exercises for beginners.

The women shone in the evening’s set, which began with an all-female bass orchestra paying tribute to Orin O’Brien, the first woman to join an American orchestra. Then Diana Gannett was introduced. I wasn’t sure what it meant when they called her a “motherly” performer, but I started to get the idea when Diana came out onstage in a flowing robe with a highly decorated bass (goddess-head scroll, flower-design tailpiece…). Diana chose to limit her pieces to composers who were present. Her music was all soft, warm, and cleansing. It was truly a joy, and in some ways a relief, to see a performer with a smile on her face the entire time. Chuck Israels closed the set with an octet, a sound which was a welcome change from a day packed with bass.