Philip Morehead – I picked up the bassoon at age 75

Philip Morehead – I picked up the bassoon at age 75

Philip Morehead - Council of Canadian Bassoonists

I picked up the bassoon at age 75

By Philip Morehead

My route back to the bassoon was somewhat circuitous.

I picked up the bassoon for the second time at the age of 75.

After a long career as a pianist, coach and conductor, both as a freelancer, then at the Lyric Opera of Chicago from 1981 until 2015, I “retired” and moved with my wife, oboist and composer Patricia Morehead, to Canada. Without consulting me, Pat decided to rent a bassoon as my Christmas present. She felt it would secure my upper respiratory health and overall longevity.

After the initial shock, I dutifully accepted the well-intended gift and was pleased to rediscover this remarkable instrument.

I did have some background to fall back from my student years, including studying the bassoon briefly with the great John Miller in Boston in the early 1970’s while at the New England Conservatory. I was studying piano and accompaniment and my goal was to better understand how wind instruments work. With John’s expert help, I learned to circular breathe and joined some ensembles. Prior to that, at the time I met my wife Patricia in France at Fontainebleau, we were both studying with the famous French teacher Nadia Boulanger. While in France, I took some lessons on the oboe with Pat’s teacher at the time, Myrtil Morel, and maybe this was the tinder for my interest in the bassoon.

After that, life intervened, our family grew as did my core musical responsibilities, and I had to sell my bassoon.

Now, all these years later, after raising our family, starting new music groups, playing and conducting around the world, and moving to Canada, I have been playing with two orchestras (interrupted alas by COVID-19), playing chamber music, and enjoying rediscovering the pleasures of the bassoon. Instrumental (pun intended) in this process was my friend Nadina Mackie Jackson, who gave me a few reeds and found a good bassoon for me to purchase. And who kicked my butt to join the Board of the Council of Canadian Bassoonists.

Donovan Tong – I started playing the bassoon in Grade Six

Donovan Tong – I started playing the bassoon in Grade Six

donovan tong - bassoon

I started playing the bassoon in Grade Six

By Donovan Tong

Hi, my name is Donovan Tong. I started playing the bassoon, the most wonderful instrument I have ever seen, in 6th grade.

It all happened by chance.

In the summer of 5th grade, my dad went on a business trip to Chicago. It was nothing out of the ordinary: 3 days and 3 nights, plus a few dinners out with co-workers. On the plane ride home, my dad just happened to sit next to a music teacher. For some very special reason, they started to chat with each other. Throughout the flight, the music teacher told my dad all about the bassoon. He explained how it was one of the highest in-demand instruments that no one really knew about, and that I should check it out. When my dad came home that night, we watched videos for hours on the bassoon and marveled at its beautiful yet unique sound. Shortly after, we rented my first bassoon and I played my first note. This was the start of my bassoon journey.

In today’s modern world, interest in classical music is fading. Important instruments for symphonic music are being played less than ever by younger musicians. Some of these instruments are on the verge of becoming extinct. The bassoon is one of these instruments at the top of the list.

I am a high school student living in California (just finished 9th grade), and I am working on a new project to try and raise awareness for the bassoon to young musicians worldwide! I created a simple website that hopefully will help young musicians who may not know about it or starting off on it to be excited about the bassoon. The reason I want to do this is that over the years many teachers and conductors have been telling me there are not enough young musicians playing the bassoon.

I’ve been thinking about this problem a lot. Currently, young musicians who know about the bassoon are often intimidated by the complexity of the instrument or don’t have the right resources to begin. However, I feel the more prominent problem is that many of the materials and websites do not really make the bassoon seem appealing to younger musicians, which goes hand in hand with not enough younger musicians knowing about it.

B.O.S.S. started in Spring 2020 based on two simple but important goals:

1) Create resources to help young musicians become more aware and excited about the bassoon.

2) Increase the number of musicians advocating for this unique instrument, gaining the help of groups within the youth music community to help inspire and overcome the challenges the bassoon is currently facing.

The resources on B.O.S.S. would not be possible without the help of the global bassoon community and really talented musicians who support us. Many of our supporters represent countries around the world including UK, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Greece, Switzerland, Holland, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Australia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the USA.

If you are passionate about the bassoon, a bassoon teacher, or anyone in the bassoon community who may be concerned about these challenges and interested in spreading awareness about the bassoon to younger musicians, please contact us at

Together with everyone’s support, we hope to make a difference for the next generation of bassoonists.

Thanks and take care,