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An interview, by Jay Ferree, our principal horn


This fall, the Richmond Symphony welcomes a new talent in the Principal Bassoon chair by the name of Tom Schneider. A Colorado native, Tom was most recently a member of the New World Symphony in Miami under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas.

Having recently spent over a year with Tom at New World, I had the pleasure of getting to know him along the way, in the orchestra of course - but also on the soccer field nearly every Sunday afternoon in the hot Miami sun after our concerts.  I consider myself blessed to see my friend again here in Richmond!  But enough from me - here is more from Tom in his own words:

How long have you been playing bassoon, and what made you choose the instrument?

I started playing the bassoon when I was 13 (at the beginning of 7th grade), so I've played bassoon for 14 years. Before the bassoon I played piano as a child and the clarinet starting in 5th grade. One evening I was at a family friend's house, and he put on a recording of the Mozart oboe, bassoon, and clarinet concertos. When the bassoon concerto came on, I was struck by the unique sound of the bassoon. It took me a couple of years to actually track down an instrument to play, but once I did, I never looked back.

What are your favorite pieces and composers to play?

My favorite piece of music is Brahms Third Symphony, and I'd say Brahms is my favorite composer. Brahms' music is a perfect balance of intellect and instinct because it is so thoughtfully constructed yet emotionally resonant. I love his orchestral works and chamber music although, unfortunately, he didn't write any chamber music for bassoon. Generally, I like a broad range of composers and styles. I love to go to concerts and hear new pieces for the first time. Some pieces that have made a strong first impression lately are:

Debussy String Quartet, Wagner Parsifal Overture, Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms, Schoenberg Piano Concerto, and Rachmaninoff Symphony no. 2.

Who are your musical heroes?

Yo Yo Ma is definitely one of my musical heroes. It is amazing how completely he owns time during his performances. He's not afraid to take risks, and I admire the way that he interacts with his audience to draw them into the music. I love this quote from him. "Everyday I make an effort to go towards what I don't understand." Because he is constantly discovering new things his playing never gets stale. On top of all of this, Yo Yo Ma is one of the greatest artists in the world, yet he is incredibly humble and down to earth.

What does it mean to you to be a performer?

I've spent a lot of time and energy trying to learn why I'm so moved by music, and then by extension, how I can best move other people with my performances. Music has an amazing power to take us places we never expected to go. When I think back on the most memorable performances I've heard, they all confronted or expanded my world view. That might seem nutty, but it's absolutely true. Music is unique because it is so abstract that it essentially interacts directly with our subconscious. It changes our perspective in beautifully subtle ways. Every time I perform I aspire to facilitate this artistic experience for someone in the audience. It is an incredibly difficult thing to do, but helping create this experience for someone else keeps me excited about being a performer.

What are your passions outside of music?

I love to watch and play soccer. I also love hiking and backpacking. I'm a Colorado native and I'm working on climbing all 55 peaks in Colorado over 14,000 ft.

What are you looking forward to about moving to Richmond?

I've only spent a couple of days in Richmond so far, but my first impression of the city has been great! I've dreamed of playing in a professional orchestra for a long time, so I'm super excited to meet and play with all my new colleagues. Next season's programs are a bassoonist's dream, so I'm looking forward to many great concerts with the RSO. People also tell me that Richmond is an outdoorsy city, so I'm hoping to take advantage of that. I've lived in Florida the last couple years, so I'm also looking forward to a beautiful autumn with lots of colors.

Tom Schneider - bassoon

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