The International Society of Bassists’ biennial double bass competition was held June 5-6, 2017 at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. Sandor Ostlund, professor of double bass at Baylor University, served as chair of this year’s competition. The five divisions were Solo, Jazz and Orchestra, with competitors from age 19 to 30, and two divisions for younger bassists, Age 15 to 18 and Age 14 and Under.

Solo Division

JUDGES: David Murray, Chair, Diana Gannett, Yuan Xiong Lu, Volkan Orhon, Anthony Stoops and Rick Stotijn.

The Gary Karr Prize of $2,500, given by Peter & Chris Gallagher, was won by Aaron Olguin. The prize also includes an expenses-paid recital at the 2019 ISB convention and a bow made by Vladimir Radosavljevic, donated by longtime competition sponsor Guarneri House. Aaron also shared the Thomas Martin Prize of $500 for the best performance of a work by Bottesini.

Aaron Olguin began his music studies at age eight on guitar in Brownsville, Texas, and was introduced to the double bass at age 11. He is a student of Jeff Bradetich at the University of North Texas, where he is principal bass of the concert orchestra. A two-time winner of the UNT Concerto Competition, Aaron received an honorable mention in the Sphinx concerto competition, and won the senior division for double bass at the ASTA International Competition in 2015. He toured Germany, Austria and Croatia in 2014 with the Fantasmi Early Music Ensemble. Aaron is also a founding member of the groundbreaking Bassinova Quartet, which recently released a recording of Beethoven and Shostakovitch string quartets transcribed for four double basses, and toured the United States and Canada in 2016.

2017 ISB solo competition winner Aaron Olguin (center), with solo competition chair David Murray (left) and Aaron Reiley of Guarneri House. Photo by Heather Ainsworth

Second prize of $1,000, given by Alan Lewine and Owlsong Productions, was won by Will Langlie-Miletich of Seattle, Washington. Will also won the $500 prize for Best Performance of the Required Piece, composed for the 2017 competition by Francois Rabbath with support from Shank’s String Instruments, and given by Gollihur Music. And Will shared the Thomas Martin Prize of $500 for the best performance of a work by Bottesini, given by Madeleine Crouch & Co.

Third prize of $750, given by Shank’s String Instruments, was won by Philip Nelson of Gera, Germany, currently a student at the Royal College of Music in London. Philip won second prize in the 2013 ISB age 15-18 competition.

Jazz Division

JUDGES: Hans Sturm, Chair, Todd Coolman, Eric Hochberg, Rufus Reid, Jorge Roeder and Marlene Rosenberg.

The Scott LaFaro Prize of $2,500, given by the family of Scott LaFaro, was won by Luca Alemanno. The prize also includes an expenses-paid concert at the 2019 ISB convention, and a Contra Combo amplifier donated by Acoustic Image, the official bass amplifier of the 2017 ISB convention.

Originally from Lecce, Italy, Luca Alemanno received two scholarships to attend Berklee School of Music in Boston. He previously earned a diploma in classical double bass at the T. Schipa Conservatory of Music in Lecce, and a second in jazz for electric bass at  the G. Martucci Conservatory of Music in Salerno, Italy. In 2016 Luca won the audition for the Thelonoius Monk Institute of Jazz Performance class of 2018 in Los Angeles, the first Italian musician to do so. He has toured, recorded and performed around the world, and is currently part of several projects, including the Fabrizio Bosso Quartet, the Anne Ducros Quartet, the Stanley Jordan Trio and the Nicola Conte Jazz Combo.

The International Society of Bassists thanks Ithaca College and Nicholas Walker, professor of double bass, for hosting the 2017 ISB Double Bass Competition.

2017 ISB jazz competition top prize recipient Luca Alemanno (right), congratulates fellow winners (l to r) Joey Pearlman, Danny Ziemann and  Daniel Montgomery.  Photo by Heather Ainsworth

Second prize of $1,000, given by longtime competition sponsor Thomastik-Infeld, was won by Daniel Ziemann of Rochester, New York, currently pursuing his master’s degree at the Eastman School of Music. Danny also took second prize in the 2015 ISB jazz competition.

Third prize of $750, also given by Thomastik-Infeld, was won by Daniel Montgomery of Miami, Florida, a graduate of the University of Miami.

Joey Pearlman of  Denver, Colorado, a student at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, received an honorable mention.

Orchestra Division

JUDGES: Ali Yazdanfar, Chair, Kevin Brown, colin Corner, Mark Morton, Brett Shurtliffe and Jeffrey Turner.

The 2017 Jane Little Prize, awarded in memory of the longest serving musician in any professional orchestra, was won by Adam Attard. Adam will receive an expenses-paid week with Jane’s orchestra family, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Adam Attard earned his bachelor’s degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music in 2016, and is currently pursuing his master’s of music at Northwestern University. He previously served as assistant principal bass with the CityMusic Cleveland Chamber Orchestra, and as section bass with the Canton Symphony Orchestra. Adam has also substituted for the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Toledo Symphony Orchestra, Ashland Symphony and the Firelands Symphony Orchestra. He was a finalist for the New World Symphony in 2016 and continues to substitute with the symphony.

2017 orchestra competition chair Ali Yazdanfar congratulates first prize winner Adam Attard (right). Photo by Heather Ainsworth

Second prize of $1,000, given by Orin O’Brien of the New York Philharmonic, was won by Paul Nemeth of Princeton, New Jersey, currently pursuing his doctorate at Northwestern University.

Third prize of $750, given by the ISB Board of Directors, was won by Isaac Polinsky of Rochester, New York, a 2017 graduate of the Eastman School of Music.

Age 15-18 Division

JUDGES: Leon Bosch, Chair, Rachel Calin, Caroline Emery, Tobias Gloeckler, Gabriele Ragghianti and Nicholas Scales.

The Joel Quarrington Prize of $1,000, given by Joel Quarrington, was won by Junbin Hwang of South Korea. The prize also includes a carbon fiber bow donated by Carbow.

Junbin Hwang is a student at the Yewon Music School in Seoul, South Korea, where his teacher is Chang-Hyung Lee. He has already made solo appearances with the Buchun Philharmonic Orchestra, Just Vivace Festival, and the Korean Kontrabass Association Festival in Seoul. Junbin has also earned a long list of first prize honors, including the Korean Chamber Orchestra Competition, the JK International Music Competition, the Korean Music Association International Youth Competition, the Hanyae Competition and the National Student Music Competition.

(L to r) Ya-Hsuan Chen, Xuanchi Li, Junbin Hwang and 2017 Age 15-18 competition chair Leon Bosch. Photo by Heather Ainsworth

Second prize of $500, given by the Music Teachers National Association, was won by Xuanchi Li, a student at the Central Conservatory of Music Middle School in Beijing, China.

Third prize of $250, given by Buell Neidlinger & Margaret Storer, was won by Ya-Hsuan Chen of Taiwan. Ya-Hsuan previously won first prize in the 2015 ISB age 14 and under competition.

Age 14 and Under Division

JUDGES: Jessica Valls, Chair, Johnny Hamil, Douglas Mapp, Gudrun Raschen, Jack Unzicker and Inez Wyrick.

First prize of $500, given by Douglas Mapp, was won by Thea Borstell of Koblenz, Germany. The prize also includes a deluxe bass bag donated by the Mooradian cover company.

Thea Borstell began double bass lessons at age four. She is a scholar of the Stiftung Deutsches Musikleben, which is supporting Thea’s studies with the loan of a “Rubner” double bass. Thea performed Keyper’s Romance and Rondo with the Jugendsinfonieorchester Aachen in 2014, and won first prizes at the BASS 2010 youth competition in Berlin, the BASS 2014 youth competition in Amsterdam, and the German Youth Music Competition in 2016. She is currently a student of Rick Stotijn.

Thanks to the 2017 ISB Double Bass Competition piano faculty, who rehearsed with and played for competitors unable to bring their own pianists with them: Laura Amoriello, Rose Chancler, Natsuko Ejiri, Dianne Frazer and Evan Mitchell.

(L to r) Jacob Fisher, Atakan Altun, Evan Tsay, Jamie Park and Thea Borstell. Photo by Heather Ainsworth

Second prize of $250, given by David Murray, was won by Jamie Park of Beachwood, Ohio. She is a member of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra and studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music with Tracy Rowell.

Third prize of $100, given by the family of John Schimek, was won by Evan Tsay of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was assistant principal bass with the Louisiana Youth Orchestra, 2016-2017, and studies with Yung-chiao Wei.

Atakan Altun of Ankara, Turkey, and Jacob Fisher of Highland Park, Illinois, received honorable mentions.

Jarrett Bastow
Jarrett Bastow

Jarrett Bastow is the ISB's intern for the spring 2017 semester as part of his degree plan for earning his Master of Arts Leadership and Administration from Colorado State University. Jarrett is the mastermind behind our popular "Blast from the Past" emails celebrating the ISB's 50th anniversary. He earned his Master in Music Performance in 2013 from Northwestern University. He is currently personnel manager of the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas, where he also serves as principal bass. Jarrett is also a section bass with the Tulsa (Oklahoma) Symphony Orchestra and subs for the Tulsa Opera, Shreveport (Louisiana) Symphony Orchestra, the Texarkana Symphony Orchestra and The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. The ISB is fortunate to have him on its team this spring - thanks, Jarrett!