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.

First, Do Harm

When I first started playing at the Met, I employed a strategy that we’ll call the Hippocratic Style of Playing: “First, do no harm.” We’re all familiar with the temptation: Keep to the background, play your part, don’t step on anyone’s toes (musically speaking), and hopefully you’ll emerge unscathed at the end. The problem is, when fear of being heard governs your approach, you’re unlikely to contribute to the greater musical product. It doesn’t allow you to listen to your own resonance; it engenders a distrust of your own sense of rhythm and pitch; it gives your colleagues nothing to play off of. Such an inoffensive approach, while unlikely to offend, will assuredly not inspire.

As musicians, we have to be assertive in our playing. To a certain extent, this requires that we abandon our dependence on external validationon our colleagues’ approval of every last musical decision we make. We need to care just a little less what other people think. It’s our job to come into the orchestra with a strong opinion and present it, unselfconsciously, without worrying about the fact (and it is a fact) that there are people around us who would play it differently.

So, after much hemming and hawing, I played out. I assumed that other people wanted to hear my ideasand suddenly there was a quality that hadn’t been there before. There was a hum, a preponderance of overtones, an energy to the whole wind sound that hadn’t been there when I had been so focused on not screwing anything up.

Ultimately, I had to lessen my concern about “doing harm.” I didn’t lower my standardsin fact, by refusing to let my insecurity take hold, my intonation, my rhythm, my ensemble skills all improved. I was giving my colleagues something to react to, and I was listening to myself more. My respect for my colleagues has been an absolute constant throughout my time at the Met (really, throughout my time as a musician), and I still care deeply what they think; it just took me a while to consider myself one of them, to assert myself as an equal.