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Why the Bassoon is the Most Interesting Instrument in the World

Donovan Tong • CommentaryOctober 2022 • October 13, 2022

SBO+: This article came to us from a talented musician and writer who clicked “Write for SBO” on our homepage. Have something to share? Write for SBO+!

I started playing the bassoon, the most wonderful instrument I have ever seen, in 6th grade.

It all happened by chance.

In the summer of 5th grade, my dad was on a business trip to Chicago. It was nothing out of the ordinary: three days and three nights, plus a few dinners out with clients and co-workers. On the plane ride home, he happened to sit next to a music teacher who carefully explained how even though few people knew about it, the bassoon was one of the most in-demand instruments, a unique one that could provide countless opportunities for young musicians. My dad spent hours on that flight learning about the bassoon. When he arrived home that night, we watched several YouTube videos about the bassoon. I marveled at its beautiful and unique sound. I noticed this instrument looked like nothing I’d ever seen; it looked a bit like an old wooden bed post, an observation that made it that much cooler. In the days following we rented my first bassoon, and I played my first note – the start of my bassoon journey.

The bassoon is a unique double-reed instrument that is a key part of symphony orchestras everywhere. It is an essential instrument found not only in classical music but can also be heard in modern soundtracks from many of the blockbuster movies we watch today (think Harry Potter and Jurassic Park, just to name a few). Because of very limited awareness for this instrument, however, music teachers and conductors have been telling me there are not enough young musicians playing the bassoon.

I have been thinking about this problem a lot. Currently, young musicians rarely know about the bassoon. Those few who do are often intimidated by the complexity of the instrument or don’t have the right resources to help them. Many of the materials and websites do not really make the bassoon appealing to younger musicians, further resulting in a low level of interest in the instrument.

For these reasons, during the beginning of the pandemic in spring 2020, I decided to start a website called BossBassoon.com. My goal is to provide resources to finally give young musicians and families a real chance to get excited about the bassoon. Through interesting bassoon articles, video, stories, tutorials, supportive resources, and organizations, I have been busy creating, designing, and gathering information about the bassoon that is highly visual, educational, and fun.

Since the start of this project, I have had the chance to communicate with hundreds of bassoonists all over the world. I never imagined there would be so many musicians encouraging me along the way. Supporters for this project include many of the most famous bassoonists in the world from the UK, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Greece, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Australia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Mexico, and Canada, as well as here in the US.

The bassoon has opened doors to opportunities I would have never been able to experience, such as playing solo parts in middle school and high school bands, being a part of local and statewide youth ensembles, and performing in some of the most famous concert halls around the world like Carnegie Hall in New York. Just earlier this summer I had the chance to be a part of a special tour where we visited several countries across Eastern Europe where our mission was to show support for countries supporting refugees from the war in Ukraine. The citizens of Poland alone have accepted over four million refugees from Ukraine into their homes, without any clear idea for how long the war will continue and with little help from their government. Having the chance to witness the generosity from so many people across Eastern Europe and show our appreciation for their humanity and compassion through the power of music was an experience I will never forget.

Are you thinking about playing a different musical instrument? Something new? Something out of the ordinary? Something that not a lot of people play? Perhaps something that can open the door to new and incredible experiences?

Well, I certainly did. And that’s why I chose the bassoon. 

BossBassoon.com

Donovan Tong is a senior attending Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon, CA. He wants to build awareness for the bassoon in ways that more effectively connect with younger musicians and their families globally. He’s been a part of school bands throughout elementary, middle, and high school, and has performed in honor bands and popular youth orchestras. 

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