The 2017 Rocky Mountain Bass Festival (the 15th since 1992) at the CU College of Music in Boulder was Sunday, Oct. 1, running from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. The festival included technique classes to help players improve their left hand fingering technique and right hand bowing technique. A jazz technique class was also held, covering the basics of playing jazz bass: how to pluck the string, how to develop steady rhythm and how to create good bass lines that clearly outline the harmonic progressions of jazz tunes. Students also got tips on how to prepare for the live seating auditions for the Western States Honor Orchestra and Colorado All-State Orchestra.
Monster Bass Ensemble is the large bass orchestra that features all participants and is the central focus of the festival. The orchestra of 50+ bassists is divided into four sections like a string quartet. Main melodies are played by each of the four parts. CU double bass majors and professional bassists play alongside in each of the sections to help younger bass players play confidently. In the three rehearsals and concert that take place during the festival, aspects of good bass technique covered in the technique and master class will be used to help all bassists improve their skills playing in an ensemble. Music is sent out ahead of time.
In 2016, 100 Colorado bassists came together for a day of orchestral and jazz bass sessions designed to strengthen foundational musical and technical skills. Monster Bass Ensemble, the large bass orchestra with eighty double bassists from 4th-graders through professionals, was again the main focus of the festival. With three rehearsals and a performance, Monster Bass was divided into five sections with absolute beginners playing open strings and the most advanced players flying high in thumb position. The ensemble performed the premier of Variations on a 12th Century Plainchant by CU double bass/composition major Danielle Griner; Blue Bastille by Tom Knific; and the premiere of Frère Jacques & Mahler 1 Together by Paul Erhard. Guest artist Tom Knific performed a fabulous recital with his family quartet: Renata Artman Knific, violin; Gene Knific, piano; and Evan Hyde, drums.
Read more: CU Boulder hosts 14th annual Rocky Mountain Bass Festival (October 2, 2016, Daily Camera)
He also really enjoyed playing with professional bass players, such as Dr. Erhard and Ira Gold. He felt that seeing and playing alongside professional bass players inspired him to become better and better to continue to get opportunities to play in situations like that. He also thought the bass orchestra was a lot of fun; he got a kick out of seeing all the bass players congregate in the back and be told to move forward.
I remember the week after the festival how excited he was at the wide variety of sounds that a bass can produce—saying that it was by far the best instrument because it could imitate all the other instruments above it.
Thank you for providing this opportunity!”
- Mrs. Amanda Hessel, Orchestra Director at William J. Palmer High School in Colorado Springs
Professor of Double Bass at CU Boulder
Instructor of Jazz Bass at CU Boulder