I was a self-taught double bassist, having been introduced to the instrument in 7th grade music class. I immediately loved it! My brother brought me to Sam Ash one evening and bought me a $300 plywood bass that we drove home with the neck sticking out of the window. I began practicing hours every day after school and learned the bass by borrowing scores of cello music and listening to the corresponding recordings at the Lincoln Center Library. Getting into the New York Youth Symphony during its 18th and 19th seasons was a significant milestone. It exposed me to a much higher level of playing than I had previously experienced. I remember attending my first rehearsal (the Bartered Bride Overture) and thinking I was in way over my head. Needless to say, I continued to practice and improve and loved every minute of it! The chance to perform at Carnegie Hall was just the icing on the cake.
It was at one of those Carnegie Hall rehearsals that I met Stanley Hall. Stanley was a Juilliard student who was an occasional ringer with the NYYS. He heard me play and after discovering that I was completely self-taught, arranged for me to play for the great bass pedagogue Homer Mensch. That was the start of a decades-long relationship. I studied with Homer first at Juilliard Precollege, and then at Juilliard college and graduate school.
Had it not been for NYYS, I am sure I would never have ended up at Juilliard. It was one of the fondest experiences of my youth. I will never forget those rehearsals we had, of all the possible places, in the lobby of a bank on Park Avenue after business hours.
After graduating from Juilliard, I went back to school and eventually found my way to the career of a plastic surgeon. After a 20-year hiatus from the double bass, I chanced across a 150-year-old German instrument on Craigslist and began playing again in earnest five years ago. I now play in Camerata Notturna – a wonderful community chamber orchestra whose gestalt reminds me so much of NYYS. Last year I became the proud owner of an incredible Vincenzo Ventapane double bass from 18th century Venice.
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