We welcome Zachary Cohen, our Principal Bass for the 14-15 season

Zachary Cohen, a native of the Bronx, won the position of principal bass of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in his senior year of Juilliard at the age of 22. Mr. Cohen received his Bachelor of Music from Juilliard where he studied with legendary bassist Homer Mensch. During his summers Mr. Cohen has performed at the Marlboro Music Festival, Grand Teton Music Festival, and The Dresden Musikfestspiele.

As an active chamber musician Mr. Cohen has collaborated with a wide range of artists such as Ithzak Perlman, Richard Goode, Mitsuko Uchida, Midori, Mark O’Connor, and members of the Guarneri and Mendelssohn quartets. He has also worked closely with some of today’s most respected composers such as Henri Dutilleux, Osvaldo Golijov, and Mario Davidovsky. While attending Juilliard, Mr. Cohen became principal bass of the chamber orchestra ‘The Knights’. He has recently recorded two albums with them on Sony Classical.Bassist Zachary Cohen, 2010. Photo by Kevin J. Miyazaki

Ever wonder what kind of wood a bassoon is made from? Here is our 2nd bassoonist, Carole Mason Smith, to answer some questions about her instrument.

 What kind of wood is a bassoon made from?CMS professional photo 

Maple is the preferred wood for making a bassoon, and it has to be aged and processed before it is ready to be made into a finished instrument.   A bassoon can be stained different colors such as mahogany, black, brown or even light brown, but maple is the material. However, student model bassoons are often made of polypropylene, a sturdy plastic more advantageous to durability than tone.

 

What are reeds made from?

Bassoon reeds are made from the same material as other woodwind reeds, a variety of cane known as arundo donax.   Many professional bassoonists make their own reeds, tailoring the reed to their own specific ensemble, repertoire, concert hall, and even the requirements of a particular piece of music.

 

How long does it take to makeIMG_20140228_103452_605 a reed?

To transform a tube of arundo donax into a bassoon reed can take several months since there are several procedures and the cane benefits from some rest between the procedures. If one does not want to undertake the entire process, there are double reed making companies which will do the rough work of splitting the tube, sizing the cane, pre-gouging, gouging, and profiling, leaving only the shaping, tubing, wrapping and finishing to the player. Even these last steps can take weeks as a reed benefits by several hours of ‘playing in’ accomplished over several days.

 

Why did you choose the bassoon as an instrument?

I was fortunate that my fourth grade band director, Carl Karoub, played horn in the Toledo Symphony Orchestra with my bassoon playing brother, James L. Mason. Carl realized our band did not really need me as thirteenth saxophonist, plus the school had a bassoon going unused, and most importantly, my brother might be coerced into providing me with lessons and reeds. I began studying with Jim that summer, and eventually even played two seasons with him in the Toledo Symphony!

 

What is your favorite repertoire to play in the SPCO and why?

Usually whatever we’re playing in the orchestra is my favorite. Melodies, harmonies and rhythms of that week’s repertoire stay with me; they stick with me until the next week’s music takes over. Of course it is a special pleasure when the wind section is featured in a Mozart, Strauss or Dvorak wind serenade, but almost every piece the SPCO plays has something exciting or beautiful which I enjoy.