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.

There's No "There" There

I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of perfection. That, or as near as I can come to it, is my goal in the practice room: to refine a passage to such a degree that I can find nothing wrong with it. But that standard doesn’t always translate into the concert hall—really, one could argue that it virtually never translates into the concert hall. Things go wrong, or, if not wrong, then not exactly how I’d want. I realized a long time ago that I enjoy the process of preparation more than I enjoy performing, precisely because the end result can never live up to my ideal of what it could be, what it should be. It’s not that I don’t enjoy performing—I do. The energy of live performance can’t be replicated. But still, I’ve always found it difficult to move past the nagging feeling that my playing should have been more committed, more precise, more stylistically perceptive.

But that feeling began to fade, ever so slightly, just over a year ago. As I left a powerfully moving concert, hosted at Curtis in tribute to Bernard Garfield, I found myself more at peace. Some of the anxiety of constantly performing and listening and judging and being judged had just…subsided.

The reason for this wasn’t readily obvious. It was, of course, inspiring to see so many accomplished players gathered to celebrate this man. But what was most meaningful to me was reflecting on Mr. Garfield’s career and what made it so truly, unquestionably great. It wasn’t that the incomparable example of his playing had raised the standard for all bassoonists (although it had), nor was it that he trained so many great musicians (although he did).

The last reeds Bernard Garfield played in the Philadelphia Orchestra, aged 76

The last reeds Bernard Garfield played in the Philadelphia Orchestra, aged 76

What makes Mr. Garfield great is the fact that he has spent his life in pursuit of an ideal, and that he has given everything of himself in that pursuit. As Joyce DiDonato insightfully acknowledged in her remarkable 2014 Juilliard commencement address (embedded below), there’s no “there” there. We never stop growing; we never stop wanting to improve, because none of us are ever as good as the music deserves.

It had finally landed in me that the only perfection that can be attained in music is a lifetime spent in pursuit of perfection. I finally saw, tangibly, that greatness isn’t dependent on flawlessness. In its most important sense, greatness isn’t defined by one performance; it’s built, one performance at a time, and is supported by the work that’s done in between. It exists in its most relevant iteration in the overarching view of a lifetime of effort: Mr. Garfield kept doing the work until he decided it was time to pass the baton. In so doing, he achieved greatness.