The bassoon world in Finland is like a game of musical chairs, and I for one can never keep straight who is where, and for how long... too many orchestras (a good thing!) and so many changes all the time. So today we begin a new series of interviews that introduces some of the orchestral bassoonists from all over Finland. Each guest will get the same set of questions. Our first guest is Jennifer Chihiro Kashiwakura. A big thank you to her for being the very first one!

jennifer chihiro kashiwakura

Jennifer Chihiro Kashiwakura, Oulu Sinfonia: "I’ve been substituting in Oulu for the past year on second bassoon. I am here until the end of this season. Then, I will be freelancing. :) "

Did you play an instrument before you started playing bassoon?

Yes, I started on piano when I was five years old. Then, I started learning the oboe when my middle school offered a band program which eventually led me to learning the bassoon.

Who introduced you to music?

My mom introduced me to music. We always had classical music CDs at home, and she really liked Chopin.

When did you start to play the bassoon, and where did you get the idea from?

I started bassoon in 6th grade when I was 10 or 11 years old. My band director asked me and my other friend who played oboe at the time and asked one of us to switch. She convinced me by saying that I could get a lot of scholarship money to college if I played bassoon, so I switched! (I am from USA so the tuition is ridiculously expensive.)

Who was your first teacher? Kathy Cross.

When did you start to think about becoming a professional bassoonist?

I started thinking about becoming a professional when I was in high school. I was involved in so many different music clubs (band, orchestra, choir, jazz band, marching band, orchestra...etc) after school that I honestly couldn’t think of any other career choice other than music. My dad suggested I become an accountant, but I said no!!

What is currently your favourite recording of the Mozart Bassoon Concerto?

I like to listen to the Dag Jensen recording.

If someone had to describe your sound in one or two words, what would they be? (you can cheat and ask someone for help with this one!)

Rich and sunny (I asked my husband!)

If you were limited to only one piece to play for the rest of your life, ( solo piece for bassoon, or bassoon and piano) what would you choose?

Second movement of Tansman Sonatine.

Who taught you how to make reeds?

ouluTim McGovern, Dominic Morgan, Helen Simons, and etc...

What is your favourite reed-thread colour?


What do you listen to (if anything) while you are making reeds?

I usually put on NETFLIX.

What is your greatest extravagance spent on making reeds?

Got a Légère reed which was expensive. But, all reed tools are expensive, and they add up! I am glad I gradually compiled my tools over the years.

What is your favourite reed-making tool?

I think profilers. It is very satisfying getting all the wood off!

If you had to describe the world’s best bassoon reed, what would it be like?

It is always in tune. No matter what.

If you could change anything about the world of classical music, what would it be?

Hmmm.....I honestly don’t know. I think people are already doing things that I can think of such as making it more accessible through social media....performing more kids concerts to get them hooked at a young age...

What is the best advice you have gotten, and where from?

Instant forgiveness. I learned this from an opera conductor while I was studying. He said that, even if you make a mistake, just forgive yourself instantly and focus back on the music.

If you weren’t playing bassoon, what do you think you might be doing instead?

Probably French Horn.

What is the hardest part of your job in the orchestra?

I guess always keeping a positive view on yourself and not be too critical of how you play. Like I said before, instant forgiveness!

Can you describe something an orchestra colleague should never say to a bassoonist?

When I was a graduate student, we had an orchestral project. We were playing Verdi’s Requiem, and in the middle of the rehearsal, the conductor just stopped and asked the first bassoon player, “Play the Rite of Spring solo for me” in front of everyone. And so he did..... I felt very bad for him.

What is your favourite orchestral excerpt?

I enjoy playing the Scheherazade solo.

What is your favourite memory from a concert that you played in?

I really enjoy playing kids concerts. They are always fun and very relaxed.

What is the nicest thing another bassoonist has ever done for you?

Leonard Hindell gave me a three hour lesson when I was visiting New York. He was such a kind person to give me so much of his time, and also gave me valuable advice in bassoon playing! Hank Skolnick also gave me so many free bassoon lessons while I was in undergrad. I hope to pay this forward one day.

Every bassoonist seems to have a passionate hobby, what is yours?

I like to draw. I also like to make cards.

Thanks Jennifer!