By John Moore
When I was 12 years old I began studying the double bass at the Wilmington Music School in Wilmington, DE, at my mother’s urging.
My mother would always remind me that when I was a baby I could sing every note of a song before I could even talk.
The Wilmingto Music School was conveniently located just a half mile from my house but it was still too far to walk carrying a double bass so my mom or dad had to drive me in the station wagon to every lesson. The music school was also the home of the Delaware Youth Orchestra which I soon joined after learning enough to be able to play. I met my most influential teacher, Domenic Fiore, who was from Reading, PA, at the Wilmington Music School. I’ve since met so many bass players from Reading, including our (PSO) Operations Manager, Tabitha Mae Pfleger.
Like me, many beginners must rent cheaply made instruments. My first instrument was made from plywood. This is still very common. The basses that professional bass players use cost many thousands of dollars and are carved out of solid spruce and maple. The finger boards are made of ebony and our bows are made from a Brazilian exotic called Pernambuco. These same species are used for all the string instruments and bows in the orchestra.
After a year or two of lessons I really started to become very passionate about music and took on more and more musical challenges. It was exciting to wonder where music was going to take me. I was accepted into the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra when I was 15 and got to go on a tour to Scotland that Summer. My high school friends asked me to play in their rock bands on the electric bass, and later I played electric bass in the high school jazz band, The Blazers. I even played the sousaphone in the high school marching band because you can’t march with a double bass, although have you ever seen a Mummers Parade?
I got my first paying orchestra job around that time performing in a local Gilbert and Sullivan operetta production.
In 1984 I was accepted to The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. I didn’t really know how prestigious Curtis was when I entered. After being there for a short time I realized how much of a privilege it was to be there. Many of the world’s biggest classical names spent time studying there, including Leonard Bernstein.
After I graduated from Curtis in 1988, I spent a semester at the New England Conservatory in Boston and then started my professional career as the assistant principal bass of the Honolulu Symphony in 1989. I stayed there 2 seasons before winning a position in the San Diego Symphony.
Five years of auditioning for big orchestras ensued and in 1996 I won a position with the Pittsburgh Symphony and moved here in the fall of that year with my wife Susanne. Susanne went on to win a job in our first violin section in 2006. Our son Oliver was born in 2003 and I remember that when Susanne went out the door to take her audition, he said in his tiny 3-year- old voice, “Play well, Mama.”