Until Walter Vinoski was 11, he couldn’t even have told you what a bassoon was.
Today, 17-year-old Young is the winner of the 2021 Friday Evening Music Club Mildred Gardner Scholarship Competition, winning $ 1,000 through this year’s virtual competition. He is a member of the Westmoreland Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra.
Vinoski, of Ruffs Dale, spoke to the Tribune-Review about the discovery of his favorite instrument. The following interview has been edited for length.
Q: How did you start playing the bassoon, and what made you continue to play the bassoon?
A: A TV show that I was watching had a bassoonist in one of the episodes and I was like, “Wow, this stuff is really weird, I like it! And I always kept in mind that it was a neat instrument. My sister was in a ballet company at the time and played ‘The Nutcracker Ballet’ with the Westmoreland Symphony every year, and every time I went to watch I would always sit in front of the bassoonists to watch them play – not so much to watch my sister perform on stage. At the end of my freshman year in high school, I jokingly asked my parents if we could rent a bassoon for me to learn and luckily there was a bassoon for rent at a music store near with us. As I approach my third year of playing, I am truly impressed with how quickly I was able to learn with the instrument. I guess what makes me play the instrument is its sound and its quirks. There really isn’t any other sound that comes close to a bassoon and I really think it’s underrated.
Q: What coin (s) did you play to get the scholarship?
A: I performed the “Bassoon Concerto in F major” by Carl Maria von Weber and the “Sonata in F minor” by Georg Philipp Telemann. I chose the Weber because it’s a story throughout the piece, and I think it’s impressive if an instrumentalist is able to communicate that story to their audience. I also chose the Telemann because of its technical challenges and its broad interpretation with movements only marked as “sad” or “happy”. Both pieces test whether the musician can maintain a “tasteful” performance even while performing difficult passages.
Q: What is the biggest challenge of playing the bassoon compared to the other instruments you have played?
A: One of the big challenges in playing the bassoon is that the community is relatively small. Most orchestras only have two or three bassoonists in a section, which makes competing for a chair incredibly difficult – you always have to be on top of your game. I also had the problem of switching to bassoon after many years of playing other instruments. When I started learning the bassoon, I had been playing the piano for eight years and the trumpet for six years. I had no intention of switching to bassoon only until I realized how much more potential I had for this instrument compared to others.
Q: How does it feel to go through a school year without being able to do the kind of group rehearsals and especially performances that you are used to?
A: Fortunately, because I go to a school with a smaller group than most schools, and we were able to have some pretty normal face-to-face rehearsals as well. We split the group up so some people had class earlier in the day and the rest later in the day. But, really, the only major difference is the inability to have live concerts, and the repertoire we’re learning this year is less intense than in previous years.