I’m going to say this right off the bat: I love working with Professor of Bassoon Yoshi Ishikawa. This is a very good thing—when you choose a school, your potential professors are a big reason why you look at the schools you do, so it stands to reason that I would enjoy learning from whoever taught at where I ended up going, right? Right.
Working with Professor Ishikawa is different from working with my high school teacher. They’re focused on different aspects of playing. They enjoy different things. They have different life experiences. That said, they're both focused on the success of their students and the best way that they can help them.
A typical lesson goes like this: I show up, I put my instrument together and soak my reed. While this is happening, Professor Ishikawa and I have a nice chat about life … things that are going on, current events and the like. Then, we get down to business which consists of almost anything under the sun and can take almost any amount of time. It can be talking about career plans and ways to implement them, it can be working on something for an audition or it can be working on something for fun. Sometimes I choose the pieces that I play and sometimes Professor does … it depends.
I find that when I’m preparing a piece, I generally do so with a focus on something that I'm trying to improve. A struggle for me is vibrato—so a lot of the pieces that I have chosen or been given to learn have several slower sections where it's necessary to focus on vibrato to sound good. As a result, I've been able to integrate better vibrato into all pieces that I play. Music is something that builds on itself as you learn and continue with it, so I have found it helpful to spend a lot of time on vibrato now … rather than in the future.
I also tend to be a perfectionist which explains why I tend to spend a long time on things. Professor helps me develop what I want to do, but also helps talk me down from focusing on too much all at once. He helps me move onto something else when I feel that I’m not progressing in a way that I want—or feel that I need to—so that I don’t go insane. Instead of just focusing on vibrato all semester, there’s a piece or two that includes some sort of technically difficult passage so that I can work on tricky fingerings, rhythm or different reed-making techniques.
Having someone to look out for you and know when you need a push in one direction or another is extremely helpful and I'm grateful to Professor for that.
The most important thing in working with Professor is our relationship. When looking at schools, I was majorly concerned with how I clicked with the bassoon teachers and, in particular, the teaching style at each university. Trial lessons were a huge part of how I figured that out. If you get the chance, I would encourage you to schedule a trial lesson with a professor you’re interested in taking lessons from—or at a university you’d like to attend—to see how you click.
Rose Hansen is a senior from the suburbs of Boston majoring in bassoon performance and minoring in ecology + evolutionary biology. When not making reeds or talking about bees, she can be found finding the best recipes and the worst movies in existence.