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10-30-19 — Bass Players Gather for Workshop with Professionals

Oct. 30, 2019 ~  Nearly two dozen bass players, ranging in age from sixth grade through high school seniors, spent one Saturday this fall honing their skills with the help of professional musicians. The district’s third annual Bass Summit brought together those who can handle the 25-pound, 78-inch tall stringed instruments.

“The bass is a special instrument, for sure,” said district orchestra director Danny Kaul, one of the summit’s organizers. “It requires a lot of physical strength just to handle the bass, let alone play it.”

Those who choose to play bass in orchestra know there will be challenges aside from moving the huge instruments. The annual Bass Summit provides plenty of challenges, thanks to professional musicians like jazz master James Albright and Joey Panella, and district music instructors.

“We invite the best of the best,” said Olathe North High School orchestra director Cecily Mahan, lead summit organizer. “Finding other bass professionals is easy because bass players stick together and everybody knows everybody. We have always gotten positive reactions from our clinicians. The students and I are so grateful to receive their knowledge and experience.”

Students could opt for jazz or improv classes, or take the Kansas Music Educators Association preparation classes. Some of this year’s attendees have participated in all three summits.

“We might have students who are playing only in first position, while our more advanced students develop their thumb position,” Mahan said. “Clinics and special days set aside to address skills they alone possess is a huge benefit to all of our orchestra programs.”

Kaul describes the bass as the “musical foundation” of an orchestra.

“It is one of those instruments that doesn’t always receive a lot of praise, but if it was missing from an ensemble you would immediately know it,” he said. “The bass is rarely in the spotlight when it comes to the orchestra, so it is a welcomed change when you have an entire day devoted just to your instrument.”

“There are typically not a lot of bass players in a single orchestra, and this event allows those students to connect with one another and take part in workshops specifically designed for bass pedagogy,” said district Fine Arts Coordinator Martha Gabel.

Kaul sees the summit as a chance to bring together like-minded musicians to build a rapport with each other.

“We hope to encourage future students to play the bass, even though the size of the instrument might somewhat intimidating to some,” he said.

“Bass playing takes a great deal of patience, special skill and athletic ability!” Mahan added. “It’s not an easy thing to do, so we want to nurture their playing as much as possible.”