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Wednesday, June 7, 2023


Bassist to debut renowned instrument sound

Renowned instrument, the Koussevitzky-Karr double bass, will be making its debut at UH with Dennis Whittaker, a Moores School of Music double bass instructor, introducing its unique sound at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 6 in the Dudley Recital Hall.

“The bass was owned first by Serge Koussevitzky, who was a virtuoso double bassist and composer. He is renowned in the music world as the founder of the Tanglewood Institute and the conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra,” said music performance senior Nick Puccia.

The bass is also famous for its legendary history. Koussevitzky aspired to be a conductor, but the conservatory he attended only had scholarships available for the double bass. He learned to play the double bass to receive the scholarship and ended up becoming an exceptional bassist. His wife Olga inherited his bass after his death in 1951. When Olga attended a recital in New York and heard Gary Karr perform, she saw the ghost of her husband onstage. She took this as a sign that Karr should have the bass.

In 1961, Karr founded the International Society of Bassists and donated the bass to the organization in 2005. The ISB allows musicians without the money to afford a bass to audition and appeal to have the bass given to them. The bass has traveled all around the U.S.

“If you have gained a good reputation in the bass world like Dennis Whittaker has, you may get the opportunity to play a recital on the famed bass,” Puccia said.

Whittaker is the principle double bassist for the Houston Grand Opera, has substituted for the Houston Symphony Orchestra and has performed all around the world.

“Dennis is an incredible player as well as performer, teacher and overall an incredible person and friend. I’m very excited for his performance. It will be a historical moment for me personally,” said music education junior Drake Eckhart.

Music performance masters student Gracie Ibemere believes that Whittaker is the right musician to play the instrument.

“Apparently, Koussevitzky was a small guy. However small it might seem, the bass has an exceptional sound when played by the right musician,” Ibemere said. “Dennis Whittaker is that musician; particularly, a bassist who knows how to extract the richest sound from any bass, and most importantly, this one.”

Whittaker’s upcoming concert will be a once in a lifetime experience for UH students to hear the unique sound of the bass.

“Perhaps, Whittaker’s goal is to present the audience the music of the double bass as represented by the many concerts the Koussevitzky bass has been featured,” said Ibemere. “This concert will take listeners on a journey through the growth of the double bass from a purely accompanied instrument to one with boundless potential both for the instrument and the performer.”

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