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.

Filtering by Tag: Reeds

Release

“Don’t think of the moment when you throw away a reed as a point of failure. Think of it as a point of release, because that reed is out of your life forever.”

As discussed before, having had a fatalistic attitude toward making reeds, I would go for unconscionably long stretches without making any. Half of the solution was committing myself to a regular schedule of reed-makingthe pipeline. The other half was an attitude shift.

The above is advice Ben Kamins gave to me during one of my summers at the Music Academy of the West. Over time, it has revolutionized my concept of success and failure in reed-making. I no longer measure success by the number of reeds that pan out. My feeling of competence has nothing to do with whether or not any particular piece of cane turns into a usable reed. Moreover, if I’m making reeds regularly, I’m rarely so desperate as to be wholly dependent on the outcome of a single day’s work.

Instead, I derive the most satisfaction from clarifying where I stand. Sure, confirming that I have some good pieces of cane is great, but so is weeding out those pieces of cane that will never, ever pan out. We’ve all had the experience of hacking away at reeds that simply won’t change. While the time spent on those can easily become frustrating, I'd rather find comfort in throwing them in the trash. (Incidentally, that’s the eventual fate of all of my reeds, except for the few on which I won jobs, which I keep for sentimental reasons.) I love knowing, at the end of the day, that I’ve narrowed the field to only my best prospects.

Even in “dry spells,” this attitude, coupled with my annual reed experiment, gives me the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve collected data and reconfirmed a standard for what’s acceptable and what isn’t. There's a certain comfort in ruthlessly adhering to that standard.

Magic Number 17

Since this is a boring (but important) topic, I’ll try to make this as concise as possible. Last season, I tracked the hardness of all 441 reeds I clipped.

The readings ranged from 8 (hardest) to 23 (softest). (Note that the higher the number, the softer the cane.) The results were simple: I had no success with any piece of cane that read 17 or higher. On the other hand, even the hardest pieces of cane occasionally worked.

Every hardness tester is differentthe same piece of cane will yield different readings on different machines. However, I have noticed that the range from high to low numbers (15, or 23 minus 8) stays remarkably consistent from machine to machine, and the relative “point of no return” (about nine above the low, or “hardest,” number) also stays relatively consistent.

In other words, your machine might measure readings from 14 to 29 (which has a range of 15), in which case the point of no return would be 23. Each machine has to be tested, but they all seem to roughly fall into the “framework” outlined above.

There we goas painless as I could make it. The experiment was absolutely worthwhile, since now I can throw away around 20% of my cane after testing.

Please feel free to ask questions in the comments—I intentionally simplified both the experiment and the results for readability.

The Pipeline

While my tendency in practicing is to overdo things, for years my “system” of reed making was defined by avoidance. I really didn’t know how to make a reed. So, knowing that I had very little chance of success, I just didn’t make them (incidentally, this is my current approach to cooking). I played on a succession of reeds that I prayed wouldn’t give out, until I finally reached a point at which I embarrassed myself more than I was willing to accept. This was not sustainable.

I decided that I would work on reeds every day, even if I only had a few minutes. On especially busy days, I might ream out a single blank and call it quits. But I figured, even that one action would set me up ever-so-slightly better for the next day. It didn’t change my life overnightwith reeds, few things do. But as time went on, I came to realize that, for the first time, I didn’t feel like I was constantly scrounging, constantly worrying about when my one reed would finally die on me.

Since then, my needs, both in quantity and quality of reeds, have increased, as has my ability to make them. I’ve arrived at a system, roughly outlined in the infographic below (click to enlarge). Is it the right system for everyone? Of course not. But it works for me, and it represents important lessons that took me way too long to figure out.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.