Brooke Valley Bassoon Days
By Richard Hoenich
Canada’s first and only bassoon camp for all ages.
Established in 2012, Brooke Valley Bassoon Days is Canada’s first and only bassoon camp. Not surprisingly, BVBD 2020 is going “virtual.” For our 9th season, my co-director Jo Ann Simpson and I have scheduled online versions of many of our regular activities, including masterclasses, group warm-ups, and reed making get-togethers, that have packed the seven days and six nights of previous years. Participants will record and upload their parts for the “Rackett,” our bassoon and contrabassoon ‘orchestra’ that always performs at our final concert. We’ll be joined remotely by a large and well-known international and Canadian bassoon faculty who are happy to have this opportunity. We’re all excited by the possibilities a virtual session will present and are looking forward to seeing how the old will blend with the new.
Brooke Valley Bassoon Days (BVBD) had its start in Jo Ann Simpson’s imagination. As Ottawa’s “go-to” teacher of middle- and high-school- aged bassoonists, she had long dreamed of an August multi-day event that would ready her students for the coming year’s lessons and ensembles. After many years of pursuing our respective careers, we happened to meet at a local church production of Bach’s B minor mass. I invited Jo Ann for lunch at my home, which is on an unpaved road in Brooke Valley, Ontario. She was instantly smitten. Taking in the country ambience in one breath, she said, “This is where an August bassoon blast could be amazing. Wanna do it together?” “Sure,” I replied. “Just not at the house. There has to be something nearby that would work better.” And with a little searching, there it was…Providence Point in Lanark Village, about ninety kilometers from Ottawa.
We started in 2012 with just 13 participants. Last summer we had 45. We’ve welcomed players of all levels of experience and interest from across Canada, the US and the European Union, and we remain unique as the only residential bassoon event in the country. Our days are filled with all things bassoon; our evenings (often into the wee hours) are spent making reeds, examining orchestral excerpts in great detail, or just enjoying one another’s company. Jo Ann and I believe that discovering the joys and challenges of growing as bassoonists and musicians is best served in a setting that’s fun, focused, and supportive. Judging by the numbers of folks who return year after year, I would say they agree.