Bailey Oliver, left, bassoonist in the Spring High School Ensemble, receives encouragement and advice from Elise Wagner, Houston Symphony bassoonist.
HOUSTON – Feb. 26, 2018 – Elise Wagner, bassoonist for the Houston Symphony, recently sat in on a rehearsal with the Spring High School Ensemble to offer words of encouragement and advice to the young musicians. Recognized for her extensive musical career and most recently as one of three bassoonists with the Houston Symphony, Wagner took the opportunity to advise the students how to become better performers as well as better students.
“Discipline. Confidence. Passion. These are key traits needed for many career musicians and professionals,” Wagner said. “They are essential for being able to do what you love in music. They have helped me get where I am now.”
With more than 50 students performing in the Spring High School Ensemble, under the direction of music director Gabe Musella, Wagner joined the students in performing Joaquín Turina’s “Tres Danzas Fantasticas,” a piece that Musella and Wagner describe as challenging, with much potential for the students.
“This is a complex piece with many musical variations,” Musella said. “Our students have been practicing very hard, and having someone like Elise from the symphony perform alongside them is amazing. She brings to them so much knowledge and a different perspective on performance. Every time we get to interact with a professional musician, I like to hear their thoughts on what they are hearing and on ways we can get better.”
Bailey Oliver, a junior at Spring High School, was particularly excited about Wagner’s visit. She is the only bassoonist in the ensemble and felt fortunate to receive both insight on her performance and personalized tips from Wagner herself.
“It was nice to have somebody else to play with since I am the only bassoonist this year. It was really exciting because it was very personal, reinforcing what we are told every day from our teachers,” Oliver said. “I want to go do music therapy and play in college, so it is really beneficial that she is giving me these tips and helping me do better on my instrument.”
Musella said that, although not all his students will become professional musicians, they will be able to apply the skills they are learning now to any career they may choose in the future. “There is absolutely dedication here. Their dedication is through the roof,” Musella said. “We have three competitive concert bands that all do very well, and having a guest like Wagner is something our students are already used to.”
Wagner’s guest appearance was made possible in part by the Houston Symphony Orchestra and its ENGIE Community Connections Program, designed to inspire high school students to further their involvement in music. The program provides musicians from the Houston Symphony the opportunity to perform or work with community members in close, personal settings throughout the Houston metropolitan area.
Wagner has been in the Houston Symphony since 2008 and also performs with the Strings Music Festival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. In addition, she has performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Wheeling Symphony, Sarasota Opera Orchestra and Lake Tahoe Music Festival; and has been awarded fellowships to the Tanglewood Music Center and the Aspen Music Festival.