Music professor shares passion for double bass

Music professor shares passion for double bass

Music professor shares passion for double bass
July 01
18:34 2014

Tyler Cleveland / Contributing Writer

Natalie Thompson’s fingers tremble over the strings, a large wooden double bass nearly obscuring her from view. She sighs anxiously and abruptly stops.

“You’re doing well. Keep going,” responds UNT music professor Jeff Bradetich in the calm and gentle voice of a father. Fifteen-year-old Thompson, a junior at Marcus High School in Flower Mound, steadies her hands.

Bradetich knows the ups and downs of playing the double bass. In the 27th Annual Bradetich Double Bass Master Class, a boot-camp for students and instructors around the world held last week, the goal remains basic for Bradetich: to inspire a love for teaching and playing bass.

“It’s like the ugly duckling of the music world,” he said. “It’s easy to get caught up in the minutia, the technique and all the little things. The main issue is the beauty of the sound. It can be a beautiful swan, but we’ve got to go through the process.”

A weeklong series of technique and solo classes culminated in a “Bass Bash” Concert on a recent Friday in Voertman Hall.

“It’s like a chorus of male Russian singers,” Bradetich said of the concert. “It’s a little chaotic. It’s an event the audience won’t forget.”

Less than ten of the 80-plus students who attended this year’s master class are over the age of 18 – a sign to instructors that the bass is catching on.

“Twenty to 30 years ago, you would be unable to see an 18-year-old doing the things they are right now on the bass,” said Jaime Ramirez, who teaches at Savior University and the University of Colombia.

Ramirez attributed the growth to improvements in bass pedagogy, or teaching methods, used during the Bradetich Master Classes. He attended his first master class in Colombia in the 90s.

“Unlike most other instruments, the double bass is still developing,” said Kate Jones, who graduated with her Ph.D in music performance from UNT. “Bradetich’s technique has revolutionized how we play.”

Jack Unzicker, professor of bass at the University of Texas at Arlington, is teaching at the master level for the first time this year, since attending his first master class in Seattle in 2000.

“It’s been a long road, going from seeing [Bradetich] as idol, to coach, to mentor, to colleague,” Unzicker said.“His personality and humble demeanor builds a very family-type atmosphere that bass players thrive on,” he said.

Although Bradetich is world-renown as a master of his instrument, for him it’s not about the fame.

“You may be on the beginning level or the Nth degree, but it’s always about the fundamentals,” he said. “It’s about enjoying a higher purpose beyond being entertained.“

“We find this path of accomplishment, purpose and community.”

Bradetich pointed out that in Russia, some parents slap hands if you play incorrectly. “Encouragement can really be a huge factor,” he said. “It can provide that one step to the next and change the trajectory of one’s life.”

Professor Jeff Bradetich (right), leads a bass ensemble alongside former student Jack Unzicker, Professor of Bass at the University of Texas at Arlington, Kate Jones, UNT graduate, and Lauren Pierce of Atlanta, Georgia, during the master class in the Music Building, 132. Photo by Tyler Cleveland.

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