The bassoon is an unwieldy instrument. It is one of the largest of the woodwind instruments, standing awkwardly tall within a family of more petite instruments. The fingering is wild and complicated, often demanding the use of more phalanges than the average human possesses. The left thumb by itself has nine keys to press down. The bassoonist needs to make sure that they place their fingers over the holes in the correct way, whether half- or fully- closed. This all considered along with its mesmeric, deep tone and a bocal that may likely poke your eye out if you’re not careful, the bassoon certainly stands out.
That said, the bassoon has one of the most beautiful sounds of any woodwind instrument. Such is the appeal that drew senior Dylan Richardson to the bassoon in the sixth grade and has held his enthusiasm for music throughout his life.
Richardson is just one term from completing his B.A. in music for bassoon performance. He began his journey in music by living within a very musical environment from a young age. His older sister and aunt both played the clarinet, which compelled him to seek practice. Not wanting to wait until sixth grade when school band began, he took private lessons first.
Playing clarinet in band was not what he had hoped for, however, and his interest in the instrument waned. At this point he heard the band’s bassoonist playing. Intrigued by the sound, he asked his teacher if he could switch instruments. Richardson started playing from there and hasn’t quit since.
“It’s the rich, dark tone color of it,” he explained. “It just has this unique sound that really appealed to me that I just love.”
When it came time to attend a university, Richardson weighed his options in regard to what he wanted to pursue. His choice was largely between engineering and music. The former was the result of always being skilled in mathematics as well as admiration for his sister, who studied aerospace engineering. Ultimately it came down to doing what he loved best: playing music.
Richardson first attended the University of Oklahoma for two years. This decision was spurred by previous acquaintanceship with the bassoon professor there, Carl Rath. Richardson met Rath in eighth grade in master classes organized by his private lesson tutor. He gelled well with Rath’s teaching style, so well, in fact, that when Rath accepted a position in Lawrence’s conservatory faculty, he made the switch to Lawrence as well.
Studying at Lawrence has given Richardson numerous opportunities to play the bassoon. He performs with the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra, the Lawrence Wind Ensemble, various quintets, sextets, octets and other -tets, a new group named Bach Chorale and the bassoon ensemble. The last plays unusually arranged music, such as a bassoon rock opera incorporating “American Idiot” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” This term, the ensemble will perform a concert of movie and TV theme songs. By and large, Richardson prefers small group settings when playing, something that a tight-knit community like the bassoon studio can offer.
Aside from music, Richardson is quite the outdoorsman. He enjoys biking, running, swimming and most anything that demands physical energy in an open air environment. He is an active member of Outdoor Recreation Club and goes on trips whenever the hectic conservatory schedule allows.
After graduation, Richardson will be joining the Marines to participate in a Marine band. In general, he would like to do anything that allows him to continue to play music.
Soon, Richardson will be closing out his undergraduate career with his senior recital. This will open with a bassoon duet with Rath. It will then immediately kick off with a Bach flute partita—an A minor piece transcribed in D minor—followed by “Concertino” by Marcel Bitsch, a tango piece with a bassoon quartet, “Fantasy for Bassoon” by Malcolm Arnold, and a sonata for bassoon and piano by Camille Saint-Saëns.
His recital will be at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 11, in Harper Hall.