Bass group photo

Image by Nicole Castleberry

Bass Group Class #1 – Tracy Rowell

In this class, Tracy foreshadowed some of the ideas she would present in her session “Setting Up a Beautiful Bow Arm.” The students had a great time playing while Tracy was sneaking in important bowing concepts. At one point while participating in a bow exercise, Tracy asked the students to respond to shapes being made. One student exclaimed “a parabola!” (gasps of “wow” from the audience) as another student replied that there were “uncomfortable references to math class being made” (laughter by all). The class also worked on Canon a due where Tracy (with audience participation) lead the students in understanding strong versus weak beats through feeling the beat in the body first then transferring it to the bass. This was a great class with solid teaching foundations by Tracy.

“Setting up a Beautiful Bow Arm,” presented by Tracy Rowell

Tracy Rowell presented through demonstration, PowerPoint, and video examples of her own studio all the elements that make a beautiful bow arm. Her extensive knowledge and passion for the subject was refreshing and left us with multiple ideas to incorporate into our own studios. Creating a solid foundation in the early lessons can prepare the way for many more advanced bow strokes. For example, Tracy showed how one simple early game, “Rock & Roll,” can become the foundation for bariolage and other strokes involving string crossings.

“A Progressive Method for Improvisation,” presented by Johnny Hamil

Johnny has an established method for improvisation where the student can improvise from day one, starting at first with just one or two notes. Johnny has made valuable resources for students wanting to improvise with recorded tracks and songbook, creating a framework in which the students have the freedom to make their own choices and can express their ideas creatively. Attendees to this session left feeling inspired by Johnny and his work. Thanks, Johnny, for a fantastic eye-opening session and the awesome mini-improv performance of Funky Toe Jam!

Gala Clinicians’ Concert – Nicholas Walker, accompanied by Tracy Rowell

On the Gala Clinicians Concert at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nicholas performed his transcription of J.S. Bach’s Flute Sonata BWV 1034 in e minor, accompanied by bassist Tracy Rowell. This beautiful performance really helped to put the bass in the spotlight at the conference. Behind the scenes, Nicholas’ image as bass “superman” came to fruition, in that immediately before the Clinicians’ Concert, he played in another session, “Minuets and More: Dance in the Music of Bach,” with Joy Grimes and Emily Rideout. Immediately following the Gala Clinician’s Concert, Nicholas went on to perform two bass concerti, his own compositions, in his presentation “Crossover Music for Double Bass.”

Nicholas Walker Bass Master Class

Nicholas Walker gives a bass master class

Image by Nicole Castleberry

“Crossover Music for Double Bass,” presented by Nicholas Walker

In this session, Nicholas Walker performed his compositions, “Pop Song Concerto for Double Bass,” and “A Grease Fantasy,” accompanied by Linda Chase (violin), Kirsten Marshall (violin), Carrie Reuning-Hummel (viola), Sera Smolen (cello), and Tracy Rowell (bass). This well-attended session was really accessible and enjoyed by the audience, who represented a cross section of the SAA community. The music truly “crosses over” from classical to pop music in a fun and virtuosic way. For example, “A Grease Fantasy,” which uses many themes from the musical Grease, incorporates many elements such as Theme and Variations in the third movement, while also using Afro-Cuban rhythms and improvisation in a virtuosic manner for both soloist and orchestra in the last movement. These difficult works were played with ease by Nicholas, and the audience responded with joy and delight.

Bass Group Class #2 – Johnny Hamil

Johnny engaged the students by introducing them to improvisation through the song Lil’ Liza Jane. Using methods he shared with us at his session (“A Progressive Method for Improvisation”), Johnny made the students feel comfortable improvising, and the students became more confident and “daring” in their improvisations as the class went on. Because of the way Johnny presented the material, this song became a fast favorite of the kids. Johnny has a way of slipping the students great playing tips in tangible ways. Here is a fantastic example: “The thumb is the master of the hand. The fingers are the monkeys. If the thumb is in the wrong place, the fingers go nuts!” accompanied by great sound affects by Johnny. A great class incorporating improvisation, and it was great to see it in action.

Bass Master Class – Nicholas Walker

Nicholas taught a bass master class, with participants Maxwell Nidehold (Nevada), Dylan Hurt (Texas), and Gautam Apte (Ohio). The many useful teaching points were presented with creativity, good humor and collaboration between teacher and students. This class was attended not only by the family and friends of the bass students, but also by local Minneapolis guests as well as teachers attending the conference.

Bass Choir performance at the 2012 conference

Bass Choir performance

Lessons 11-20 of “The First 20 Five-Minute Lessons for the Beginning Bass Player and Beginning Double Bass Teacher,” presented by Nicholas Walker

This session showed practical and useful ideas which can be easily incorporated into beginning lessons, to get a student off to a good start. (Examples: “karate chop” for finding neck block position, Blues in D Major in the Neck block position, his comparison of Rabbath and Simandl positions and possibly naming several positions: half, first, “tuning,” “block,” “thumb,” etc.)

Bass Choir – Nicole Castleberry Clouser, Johnny Hamil, Tracy Rowell

Bass choir culminated in a concert presenting music from the Suzuki repertoire, improvisational material and crossover music. Rehearsing the choir was a joint effort by Nicole, Johnny and Tracy. The bass choir concert tied into the bass sessions presented at the conference and a great time was had making music and a memorable experience together.