Juan de Gomar
Juan (Low Thunder) de Gomar
Juan de Gomar aka Low Thunder, Mr. Fabulous, hubba hubba, twice the bassoon that anyone could ever be, is responsible for the existence of the Bassoon Brothers. The second half of his 1985 Halloween bassoon recital featured bassoon quartets. Code name BDG, Juan was the first to leave the group and now performs with the Atlanta Symphony. He plays a 7500 series Heckel and a Fox contra with a pre war Heckel crook. In 2011, Juan will be one of the next lucky few to get a Fast System Contra.
Click on the questions below to read Juan’s answers.
What was your first memory of hearing a bassoon?
Bassoon in Road Runner cartoons and contra on Fred Flinstone.
When was the first time you saw a picture of a bassoon?
I guess that would be in junior high, the Degas painting of the bassoonist in the pit orchestra.
When was the first time you saw a real bassoon?
That would have also been in junior high. I loved that you could pick it out in any band or orchestra because the bassoon bell extended over all the musician’s heads. I also loved that the tone holes went in all different directions, not just straight into the bore of the instrument.
Did that have any impact?
I was magnetically drawn to it and knew I wanted it play it.
What was the first musical instrument that you played?
What was your first woodwind instrument?
How did you come to play the bassoon?
I went through so many different instruments until I found one that no one played. It also helped that I was very large for my age with big hands.
Were you happy initially, or did you have problems with it?
Fingerings and reeds were always a problem. I tended to break or crack reeds frequently. Reeds are still a problem to this day, X2 with the contrbassoon. Trying to get a contrabassoon to not sound like a vacuum cleaner is a real trick.
What was the first recording of a bassoon that you played at home?
Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.
Did you have any favorite bassoonists on recordings?
Both of my teachers have released amazing recordings. Bernard Garfield recorded what I consider the definitive recording of the Mozart Bassoon Concerto, sweet and lyrical. Robert Williams has recently released a CD of lessor known works by Julius Weissenborn for bassoon and piano, gorgeous and soulful. Milan Turkovic is fantastic in so many of his recordings. Chris Millard is really wonderful with flawless technique and warm, rich sound. His CD of Italian concerti is my favorite bassoon CD of all because of the outstanding rep. Sue Nigro is a fantastic contrabassoonist who has recorded 5 solo CDs.
What was it like being a teenage bassoonist?
I was basically it, so it was kind of cool. I got to play all kinds of neat gigs because there were so few bassoonists around.
What was it like being a female bassoonist?
Funny story. While playing the lone bassoon part for an Oregon Symphony Halloween concert many moons ago, I decided I would go as Janet Reno on vacation for the concert. I wore a big, floppy, orange, straw hat, covered with flowers, among other things. The Bassoon Brothers were playing a library gig a few days later. A gentleman came up to Bonnie during a break and asked her if she was playing the Halloween concert a few days ago. I chuckled and told the gentleman that I was the woman he saw on stage. I guess I must be in touch with my feminine side. LOL
What were some of your best bassoon moments as a teenage bassoonist?
Winning principal bassoon of the Detroit Symphony Civic Orchestra. I got to play all kinds of great rep in Orchestra Hall Detroit and get free tickets weekly to hear the Detroit Symphony.
What were some of your worst moments as a teenage bassoonist?
I remember screwing up a solo in Copland’s Rodeo Suite. I was so depressed I wouldn’t speak to anyone. IT WAS DRAMATIC!!
What solo pieces did you play starting out?
Burill Philips Concert Piece, Telemann Sonata in F
What method books did you use?
Wiessenborn, Milde, Pivonka, Jacobi
What were your solo competition pieces?
Telemann Sonata, Mozart Concerto, Weber Concerto, Hummel Concerto
Where did you study bassoon in college?
Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan and Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Bachelor from Temple.[/expand]
Bernard Garfield, Robert Williams, Leonard Sharrow.
Did you expect to become a professional bassoonist upon college graduation?
Yes, when all the planets aligned on February 29th. That’s why I play contra. There are so many fine bassoonist and contrabassoonists, all looking to get into an orchestra. At any audition, you will have several people who are wonderful players and could do a great job, yet only one will win.
What happened to you in the years that followed graduation?
I worked in a lot of restaurants and didn’t play much at all. Got very depressed and started thinking about other things that I might do. Then by the grace of God, I got lucky one day in my life and it happened to be the day I took an audition for the Oregon Symphony.[/expand]
What orchestras have you performed with?
Oregon Symphony, Atlanta Symphony www.atlantasymphony.com, Detroit Symphony, Delaware Symphony, combined performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Philharmonic Institute Orchestra.
What festivals have you played with?
Grand Teton (still play) www.gtmf.org, Oregon Bach, Peter Britt, Oregon Coast, Ernest Bloch, Cascade, Aspen, Interlochen, Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute.
What honors have you received as a bassoonist?
I got to perform a few concertos on bassoon with a couple of Northwest orchestras. I also got to play and record the solo contrabassoon part in Hell’s Angels with the Oregon Symphony. Woo Hoo!!
What is your worst nightmare as a bassoonist?
Not being prepared or having a really bad reed.
What are your favorite solos?
Orchestral: Rite of Spring,Three Bottecelli Pictures, Concerto Wolf Ferrari Sonatina. (Chris Millard’s recording is fantastic!!)
What are the most important points to relate to a young player?
First, love playing the bassoon and never get down about it. Always be joyful about it. Be Thankful that you have the opportunity to get to play such a great instrument. Secondly, try and make music always. Better to play musically and make some mistakes then play perfectly and boring. EVERY BASSOONIST SOULD ALSO PLAY CONTRABASSOON!!
Is there anything else about the bassoon that needs to be mentioned?
Bassoonists get no respect and contrabassoonists get no respect from bassoonists.
About becoming a professional musician, if you have to ask your teacher or someone else if they think you should become a professional musician, you already have your answer. Know it deep in your gut that it is something you have to do. It matters not what other people think.
Also, don’t measure how good you are as a bassoonist by what job you have. There are incredible musicians everywhere and many may not be in the biggest of orchestras.
Has the bassoon ever caused a problem with a personal relationship or your marriage?
Sure, it gets hard sometimes when you do this professionally not to think that it dominates your life. This can be hard on relationships. Remember to always thank your significant other for putting up with all the craziness that comes with being a bassoonist.
How did the bassoon change your life?
It gave me a direction and a channel for my energy and passion. It also kept me off the streets at night.
Have you had therapy because of being a bassoonist, or performer?
I don’t need therapy because of the bassoon. I need therapy because I’m me. (And he? had plenty!) All bassoonists should really be in therapy the entire time they are playing because they are all totally crazy.