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.

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.

My Intonation Revelation

Intonation is a never-ending project. It’s extremely simple, incredibly subtle, and (I anticipate) takes more than one career to really, truly master. I stumbled across a revelation of sorts rather later in my first season than I’d like to admit. To appreciate how radical it was at the time, and how obvious in retrospect, it’s important to first understand where I was coming from.

I learned the adjustment “rules” for just intonation (outlined below) pretty early on. These quickly came to completely define my approach to playing in tune with others. For example, here’s how I would conceptualize the opening of the second movement of Brahms’ First Piano Concerto (which we happen to be playing later this season):

Now, this is important information, and I certainly keep it in mind at all times, but when you add in the vagaries of the other people you’re playing with? A bad reed? A personal tendency on a given note? An instrumental tendency on a given note? It can very quickly turn into a big mess. So what’s the solution?

I have found that it’s absolutely necessary to keep the objective “rules” outlined above in mind, within the context of where you hear the note you’re about to play. In retrospect, this is self-evidenta necessity, even, particularly for brass playersbut it was a novel concept to me.

When I finally figured it out, we were performing Un Ballo in Maschera, and my frustration with my own pitch was building and building, until I finally decided to listen to my own resonance. I stopped trying to figure out where my colleagues (who play remarkably in tune under circumstances that are often challenging) would play. In a profession where very little progress happens suddenly, it was shocking to me how instantaneous the transformation was. So many of my intonation problems just…vanished. Now, as I said, work on intonation never endsI’m not trying to claim that I immediately developed faultless intonation. But by changing my mindset, I suddenly jumped that much closer.

Of course, this is a minefield of a topic. I don’t want to understate the importance of knowing how to adjust based on one’s harmonic function. Both aspects, the intellectual and the auditory, are essential. “But I sound good to myself!” is not a valid response when you need to adjust. My point is, playing in tune must be done in by understanding one’s harmonic role in conjunction with some commonsense listening, not just to others, but to oneself.