Bonnie Fillmore Cox
Bonnie is the Bassoon Brothers sole sister and was voted the girl with the nicest bassoons. She plays on a Fox Model 201 bassoon and Fox Contrabassoon. Besides being Principal bassoon of the Oregon Ballet Theatre and first call for the Oregon Symphony, Bonnie is a full time nurse. Code name FDG and RN.
Click on the questions below to read Bonnie’s answers.
What was your first memory of hearing a bassoon?
I wore out an old “Peter and the Wolf” LP as well as an “Introduction to the Orchestra” LP. Truthfully, I’m not sure I knew that I was listening to the bassoon until I started playing it. Loved the sound track to ‘Leave It to Beaver’ and ‘Fred Flintstone’.
When was the first time you saw a picture of a bassoon?
I had to look it up in the encyclopedia when I was 12 to see what a bassoon looked like after my parents announced that I would play the bassoon. My reaction: that thing is taller than I am – you’ve got to be kidding! It wasn’t until I began attending Milwaukee Symphony concerts soon after that that I actually saw and heard a “live” one.
What was the first musical instrument that you played?
I studied piano from the time I was eight. The instrument was a George Steck baby grand which I inherited from my mother and which all of my children have played at one time or another.
What was your first woodwind instrument?
Besides kazoo and toy trombone, I began on bassoon at age 12.
How did you come to play the bassoon?
As I mentioned above, it wasn’t my decision. After getting over the initial shock at the size of it, and the worry over my image carrying around a huge case (which was twice the size of today’s compact variety), I soon took to it like a duck to water. My sisters would yell down the stairs when I practiced “The train’s coming!”. The bassoon sounds like a lot of things, but I’m not sure a train is one of them!
What was the first recording of a bassoon that you played at home?
Probably Maurice Allard and Vivaldi’s E-Minor Concerto on Nonesuch label.
Did you have any favorite bassoonists on recordings?
Maurice Allard (for a French bassoonist, he’s not bad) and later John Miller and Milan Turkovic.
What was it like being a teenage bassoonist?
Have to say it was great. Because there always seems to be a shortage of teenage bassoonist, I got to play in a lot of ensembles, unlike my clarinet and flute playing compatriots.
What was it like being a female bassoonist?
I was never uncomfortable as a female bassoonist. In fact, the few other bassoonists I encountered in those years were mainly female. I remember the experience of All State Band and sharing the section leader spot in a 7-person section with a guy who wasn’t real wild about sharing the chair with me.
What were some of your best bassoon moments as a teenage bassoonist?
I got to play in all ensembles, including jazz ensembles, and all pieces because there wasn’t a lot of competition. I loved solo and ensemble contests. I loved the attention!
What were some of your worst moments as a teenage bassoonist?
I was handed a saxophone in HS to play in the jazz band. I gave it several weeks before I decided they would have to get used to a bassoon in the jazz band. I was a terrible saxophonist! I probably should have done things in reverse – first learned the sax, then the bassoon!
What solo pieces did you play starting out?
Haydn Millar Adagio & Rondo, Galliard Sonatas, Vivaldi Concertos in G Minor and E Minor.
What method books did you use?
Rubank, of course, all 3 levels, Weissenborn Method, and Spencer The Art of Bassoon Playing.
What were your solo competition pieces?
von Weber and Mozart Concertos, also von Weber Andante and Hungarian Rondo.
Where did you study bassoon in college?
University of Illinois with dear old Sanford Berry (2 yrs), University of Minnesota with John Miller – B.A., then Northwestern U. with Willard Elliot – M.M.
Did you expect to become a professional bassoonist upon college graduation?
Ideally, yes – my training was certainly in that direction, but I also knew it would take a good bit of perserverance, and time would tell.
What happened to you in the years that followed graduation?
After working 10 months at an insurance company, I lucked out, played an audition for a job in Caracas, and soon joined the hoards of other college graduates heading to South America for employment. While in Caracas on a 2-yr. contract, I met and married my husband who later won a horn job in the Oregon Symphony in Portland where I have been freelancing ever since.
What orchestras have you performed with?
Orquesta Sinfonica Municipal de Caracas, Oregon Symphony, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Eugene Symphony and prior – Civic Orchestra of Chicago.
What festivals have you played with?
Most of the festivals in Oregon including Oregon Bach, Peter Britt, Oregon Coast, Ernest Bloch, Cascade, and Abbey Bach.
What honors have you received as a bassoonist?
“Sole” sister of the Bassoon Bros!. Was asked to solo with a couple of local ensembles.
What is your worst nightmare as a bassoonist?
Forgetting my reeds for a performance or splitting my favorite reed during a performance – both of which I have done!
What are your favorite solos?
Orchestral: Scheherazade; Concertos: Mozart, Vanhal and Vivaldi concertos; Sonatas: Michele Corrette, Fasch, St. Saens and Telemann, Mozart K.292.
What are the most important points to relate to a young player?
It is a great instrument, but not easy to master – fingerings are complex requiring great thumb agility. But with lots of practice, the technical problems can be overcome – just listen to some good recordings to be convinced of that. Also, reeds and later reedmaking have to be mastered (though does one ever really master reedmaking? – there are so many variables), and that can be a bit of a chore. Again, with lots of practice working on and making reeds, that skill will come.
Is there anything else about the bassoon that needs to be mentioned?
When you get down and out about the complexities of the bassoon, pick up the contrabassoon. Only then will you get a true appreciation for the bassoon as well as for good contrabassoon players.
Has the bassoon ever caused a problem with a personal relationship or your marriage?
Au contraire…when I shifted focus away from the bassoon for awhile to work on a nursing license….now that is when my troubles began…it’s a long story… Just call me Bonnie Fillmore Cox, RN (Reed Nerd).
How did the bassoon change your life?
Added uniqueness, humor and soul!
Have you had therapy because of being a bassoonist, or performer?
Performing has never been a serious problem on the bassoon, which is something I can’t say for the piano which gave me intense stage fright. Sure, I’ve gotten a good case of nerves, but am able to deal with it. I believe that some nervousness is a good thing and will put you in a good place to perform a little bit better. I have been fortunate to escape physical ailments so far, though that left hand stretch on the contrabassoon seems to get harder all the time!