THE FACTS: Born in Albany, New York. Studied at The Curtis Institute of Music with Roger Scott. Prior to the Philharmonic: principal bass of The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, principal bass of the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, and bass section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Also: principal bass of Valery Gergiev's World Orchestra for Peace. At the Philharmonic: Acting Principal Bass in the 2012–13 season; Principal since May 2014. Current teaching posts: bass department chair of The Juilliard School; faculties of the Manhattan School of Music, Purchase College, and Rutgers University; distinguished visiting artist at Lynn University. Most recent recording: The Bottesini Collection, Volume Five, with bassist Thomas Martin on Naxos.
EARLIEST MUSICAL MEMORY: My father was a bass teacher, and bass players were constantly coming and going from our house. At age five I wondered why they were making such a big fuss out of this peculiar melody by a man named Mahler. It turned out to be from the third movement of Mahler's First Symphony.
FIRST PIECE YOU FELL IN LOVE WITH: Mahler's Fifth Symphony when I was 10 and Beethoven's Violin Concerto when I was 12. Both recordings went to Curtis with me and I listened to them every day.
WHEN DID YOU START BASS? My father said I picked up a bass at six or seven and started playing all this hard stuff. I was around bass from day one, and I thought everyone played it! I started lessons at seven.
WERE YOU INVOLVED IN ANY EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES IN SCHOOL? Rock 'n' roll drumming
TELL US MORE ABOUT THAT: No, no, it's too embarrassing!
WHO WERE YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MUSICAL INFLUENCES? Pianist Rudolf Serkin — he was humble, kind, generous with his knowledge, and incredibly excited about music; and cellist David Soyer — for all those reasons, plus he was a tough New Yorker
MOST INSPIRING COMPOSERS: Mahler, J.S. Bach, Beethoven, Debussy, Berg ... I can't stop!
HOW DOES YOUR OPERA BACKGROUND TRANSFER TO PLAYING IN A SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA? The principal bass position in the opera orchestra requires a serious commitment to ensemble: the ability to connect an orchestra and soloist through the bass line. I love that and hope to make a strong contribution to the Philharmonic in that way.
TELL US ABOUT THE SOUND TRACK FOR STEPHEN LANG'S SHORT FILM THE WHEATFIELD: Stephen realized that a solo bass's soulful, earthy sound would be ideal for the true story of two Civil War soldiers — a northerner and a southerner — aiding each other at the Battle of Gettysburg. We performed it at the 150th anniversary of the Battle. This moving and meaningful project turned out to be one of the high points of my life.
As of December 2014