William Short

William Short was appointed Principal Bassoon of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in 2012. He previously served in the same capacity with the Delaware Symphony Orchestra and has also performed with the Houston Symphony and the Philadelphia Orchestra. William has performed as soloist with the Vermont and Delaware Symphonies, as well as the New York Classical Players. He is the bassoonist in the Gotham Wind Quintet.

A dedicated teacher, William serves on the faculties of The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, and Temple University, as well as the Verbier Festival and Interlochen Arts Camp. He has presented classes at colleges and conservatories around the country and at conferences of the International Double Reed Society, for which he serves as an officer.

William has also performed and taught at the Lake Champlain, Lake Tahoe, Mostly Mozart, Stellenbosch (South Africa), Strings, and Twickenham Festivals. An occasional editor and composer, his works have been published by the Theodore Presser Company and TrevCo-Varner Music.

Committed to forging connections between audiences and performers, William's articles on the subject can be found on the MET Orchestra Musicians' website, which has been lauded not only by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, but also by noted arts consultant Drew McManus and prolific cultural commentator Norman Lebrecht.

William received his Bachelor of Music from the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied with Daniel Matsukawa and Bernard Garfield, and his Master of Music at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, where he studied with Benjamin Kamins. He attended festivals including the Music Academy of the West, Pacific Music Festival, Spoleto Festival USA, and the Verbier Festival. Additional major teachers have included Jeanine Attaway, Kristin Wolfe Jensen, and William Lewis.

Mind the Gap

In my last post, I described how I got one paradigm-shifting piece of advice…and went completely overboard with it. The story of regaining my confidence in the practice room is one that continues to this day.

It boils down to what Ben Kamins refers to as “starting from a point of success.” The thing is, we all know how we want to play. We all have an ideal we’re striving toward. But every day, we’re confronted with the reality of where we currently stand, and that reality almost never aligns with our ideal. There will always be a gap between those two pointswhere we are and where we want to beand the question of confidence is really the question of how we choose to approach that gap.

One extreme, which I chose in high school, is underestimating where one’s limit is, and approaching it as cautiously as possible. This approach killed my confidence. The other extreme leads to misplaced confidence: denying that there is any gap at allgoing full speed ahead, hammering through the most difficult passages without any regard for the sounds that are coming out of the instrument. I think it goes without saying that this is also a pretty bad option.

The key is balancing right on the edge of one’s abilities, but always starting from that point of success. One has to begin with something one can do, and gradually push out of one’s comfort zone. I still find this hard, since I can’t leave something alone until it’s as good as I can play it. I prefer to stay in my comfort zone, even when nobody’s listening.

I want to be very clear: I’m not suggesting less slow practice, nor am I advocating less time spent methodically, sometimes painstakingly, working through difficult passages. Quite the oppositeI’m advocating a straightforward appraisal of one’s strengths and weaknesses, and an approach to the weaknesses that is at once honest and confidence-building. Oftentimes that means spending a lot of time in the practice room with the metronome, but we also have to recognize when we can trust our years of training.

Now, I had to put in the work sometimenot to the extreme that I did, but I still don't regret that phase of my development. But now, when I practice an etude, I don’t always go bar by bar at the slowest tempo I can stand. I've done that work (and then some). Because, you know what? It's kind of fun to start near my limit and see how far I can push myself today.