- Find students who enjoy school and like learning new things. They will probably do well.
- Patience and curiosity are most important. Instrument trials should focus on uncovering the character of the student.
- Make expectations clear to new bassoon parents to ensure a good fit.
- Let students know you have limited space in the class.
- Your best band parents are great resources for finding new bassoon students.
- Here are the slideshow and brochure I use at instrument trials.
Bassoonists are hard to find but these tips will help you find good candidates who will go on to be great players! Finding students who are a good fit for the bassoon is one of the best ways to retain students long term.
The "Ideal" Bassoonist
Great bassoonists are curious, intelligent, patient, and flexible. They are able to and enjoy working independently, and typically do well in school. I like to say playing the bassoon is like a science experiment. You have to be willing to try a lot of things and figure out what works - then do it over and over again to see if you can get the same results. You have to be patient enough to keep trying and curious enough to want to learn more even when it's challenging. Students who like the idea of being in a small class and aren't already busy with tons of other extracurricular activities (especially too many sports) are often the best fit. I chose the bassoon because I liked the idea of doing something "unique" and being in a class with just a few people since I often got bored in bigger classes that moved more slowly.
Bassoonists need a lot of support and encouragement to avoid burning out, so it's important that the parents understand the commitment to purchasing reeds regularly, paying for weekly lessons and making time for practice at home. These are essential for success on the bassoon, perhaps more so than most instruments. Students who have siblings in band are great candidates, as their families often have a better idea of the importance of lessons, at home practice and attending rehearsals.
When testings students on bassoon, I am primarily concerned with how much interest they show and their flexibility and attentiveness. Almost anyone can form a bassoon embouchure and blow enough air to make a noise. In addition, unless their hands are truly very small, they will grow into it by the time school starts. I want to know that they are willing to try things out, evaluate themselves and try again even if it didn't work the first time. It is worth letting the student know what your expectations are regarding lessons, practicing at home, and attending rehearsals. This gives you insight into whether that sounds appealing or overwhelming to them. The best candidates will rise to the challenge and say they think they can handle it.
Play Games & What to Test
I prefer to focus on matching pitch on the reed, then play the reed and bocal together. I like to play games to see if they can hear if the note is higher or lower and match my sounds. You might try tapping rhythms with fingers or other games to see how advanced their motor skills are. Bassoon will require a lot of complex finger movements, so if that seems overwhelming now, imagine adding 9 thumb keys to the mix! If you have time to let them actually try the instrument, it can really get some kids excited! Others might be overwhelmed by the size or weight of the instrument, and that's good to know too. Play some notes for them if you can. Students who say they love the sound often pick bassoon since it's so unique.
Talk to the Parents
It is equally important to talk with the parents to make sure they're invested in having a student in band. This new bassoonist will need reeds, lessons, time to practice at home and a way to get their bassoon home every day. Those things don't happen if the parents aren't involved. In addition, this is a great time to discuss the fact that since there are so few bassoonists, it really is a long term decision, and the student should plan on being in band for at least 2-3 years if not longer. If they are more interested in just "trying it out" for a year, I would highly recommend a different placement.
Where to Find Them
So where are all these great bassoonists hiding? As I mentioned, the siblings of your best band students are a great place to start. If you can, talk to your Elementary Music Teachers and find out which students are the most eager to learn, patient and curious. Make an effort to have your current bassoonists meet or perform for the younger kids. Most elementary school students don't even know what a bassoon is! Share some fun bassoon videos for the teacher to use in class, or arrange to have your students demo the bassoon for them.
- Siblings of your best band students, children of your best band parents
- Students who already play another instrument
- Students who enjoy school and make good grades
- Students who know they want to be in band for more than one year
- Students your Elementary Music Teachers recommend
- Students who are excited about the bassoon and up for a challenge