Donovan Tong: Playing the Bassoon

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It's not the instrument young people usually choose to become musicians. But for Donovan Tong it has opened up worlds of possibilities.

I started playing the bassoon, the most wonderful instrument I have ever seen, in 6th grade.

It all happened by chance.

The summer before middle school, my dad was on a flight back from Chicago. A music teacher he was sitting next to excitedly told him about an instrument he never heard about. This instrument was like nothing I’d ever seen! It looked like an old wooden bed post. It sounded a tiny bit like the cello. But it had the most soothing, calm and unforgettable voice. For a clarinet player in elementary school in an endless ocean of clarinet players, this was an amazing discovery. I eagerly rented my first bassoon and played my first note. This was the start of my bassoon journey.

The bassoon is a unique double-reed instrument that is a key part of symphony orchestras everywhere. It is an important instrument found not only in classical music, but also in modern soundtracks from so many popular blockbuster movies. Think Harry Potter and Star Wars, to name a few.

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Music teachers and conductors everywhere I go have been telling me there are not enough young musicians playing the bassoon. I believe we need more visual resources to connect the bassoon with younger audiences. We also need music departments, organizations, and stores, as well as schools, teachers, and media platforms to help provide greater awareness for this instrument.

With the bassoon, I’ve been a part of leading youth ensembles, performing in renowned worldwide concert venues such as Carnegie Hall in New York. Earlier this summer, in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis, I traveled across Eastern Europe to show support for the many countries assisting refugees there. The citizens of Poland, for example, have accepted into their homes over four million refugees from Ukraine, without any idea for how long the war will continue. Having the chance to see such generosity, and to show our appreciation through music, was an experience I’ll never forget.

The bassoon has opened many doors to opportunities I never imagined possible.

Unfortunately, many younger musicians will never have the chance to know about this instrument.

I am one of the lucky ones. And that’s why I play the bassoon.

With a Perspective, I'm Donovan Tong.

Donovan Tong is a senior attending Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon.