Here's the rest of my interview with Ira Gold:
If you could go back in time and tell your 18- to 22-year-old self something, what would it be?
Take a break! I worked diligently during those years, almost obsessively, perfecting my craft and giving up social opportunities to practice as much as possible. However, there is something to learning about the world, what is happening in your community, and being a part of something outside of your own schedule. I wish I had been more involved in the BU community, maybe even explore Boston more. The friendships and musical bonds that came from my years there are forever lasting, but sometimes you only live in a place once - take advantage of what a city has to offer you.
What changes have you seen in the last 10 years in the bass-playing world that have most surprised you?
Well, my youngest student Ruby, who just turned 9, can play some tunes in thumb position. Yes, that is a true statement. Through the George Vance method, students are exploring the instrument in boundless ways that I didn't experience until the age of 14 or so. I'm sure this has been going on for a while, probably as far back as the late 1980's, early 1990's, but for me, seeing it first hand now, it's extraordinary. I think strings like the Corellis and Bel Cantos have improved young students ability to make a quality tone at an earlier age. Another interesting factoid is how many Rabbath educated or inspired students are landing jobs in orchestras, and what that means for the future of the orchestral bass world. I personally believe that Francois' message of playing with ease, having a bass that is set up to accommodate every note on the fingerboard, and the use of thumb for many of our fast orchestral passages is allowing us to elevate the standard of orchestral playing. Hal Robinson has noted this before, but in conjunction with the ease of play, recent audition winners are also the finest solo bassists. This is what you see with violin and cello winners, bass has moved in to this arena. It is so exciting to be part of this, and see where it goes.
What challenges do young bassists face today that you didn't have to face when you are in school?
I'm sure the competition has always been there, but it seems that there are so many more incredible players now. Between ISB, national workshops, classes, and symposiums, the high standards of educational institutions, and the level of bass playing in orchestras, the culture is shifting. We are living in a bass renaissance, and are so fortunate to be interconnected while it's happening.
Another point I hear about is that traveling with a bass is becoming more difficult and stressful. I had my flight trunk all through my school days and flew everywhere for auditions and sub work. Airlines have changed their policies about weight restrictions for bass, and this has made booking flights with certain airlines from certain cities impossible. I know AFM is working through petitions to correct this, but the process is probably complicated.
What sort of music - other than classical music - do you enjoy listening to?
I go through phases, but rock is always there. I'm a sucker for 70's and 80's rock, something about the whole culture seemed limitless and unleashed. Classical musicians, although under this veil of sophistication, care, and refinement, need to consider when to "explode" or "erupt" an articulation or gesture in the music. I think there is much to learn about emotion through all styles, genres, and configurations of music. Rock gets at the primal nature of sound in a way that we don't experience in orchestra.