By Dedra Cordle
It comes as no surprise to learn that Alexandra Traini, the daughter of two music educators, has a high musical aptitude, but when people discover one of her preferred instruments is the bassoon, the look of surprise cannot be hidden.
“They always make the funniest faces because they have never heard of it before,” said the 15-year-old.
Despite having been around for hundreds of years, the woodwind instrument has never received the kind of acclaim or attention other instruments in an orchestra have enjoyed. In fact, it is seen by some as the orchestra clown since it is often used as background sounds in entertainment mediums to convey ensuing hijinks. Still, it is a beloved instrument to all bassoonists.
“I like it because it is such a unique instrument,” said Traini.
Though her burgeoning musical career began at the age of 4 on the piano, she did not start playing the bassoon until three years ago.
According to Traini, she did not have much of an interest in the bassoon until a spot became available at Grove City Christian School.
Traini’s father Thomas, who is the orchestra director at Grove City High School, said he and his wife, Crystal encouraged Alexandra to learn the bassoon because they believed her knowledge of the piano would help her adapt to the complexity of the bassoon.
“Playing the piano for so long has given her a very good ear for the music and that is something that you can’t quite teach,” he said.
After listening to her parents’ advice, she mulled over the offer and decided she wanted to learn how to play that beautiful yet odd-looking instrument.
“I’m glad I made that choice,” she said.
For over a year, Traini practiced and learned through lessons and trial and error. At one point, she even thought of giving it up. Though oftentimes frustrated, she stuck with it and started receiving lessons from Dr. Emily Patronik, who is the instructor of bassoon at Ohio Wesleyan University, Denison University and Mount Vernon Nazarene University.
Patronik said she was impressed that Traini was so proficient in the bassoon despite having spent just over a year working with the instrument.
“For a middle schooler, Alex was very advanced,” she said.
Patronik said her skills have only improved over the years.
“Her interpretation and musicality is very strong, especially for a freshman in high school,” said Patronik. “Outside of our lessons, she does so much on her own and just works so hard on technical passages.”
With a budding confidence on the bassoon, Traini auditioned for and received a spot on the Columbus Symphony Cadet Orchestra. Then she decided to try her hand at competitions and received a spot in last year’s finals at the Columbus Symphony Young Musicians Concerto Competition. That spot came as something of a delightful surprise to Traini and her family.
“I competed mainly for the experience and feedback,” she said, referring to the feedback the musicians receive from Columbus Symphony Orchestra musicians and other collegiate faculty around Central Ohio.
Traini said while she was happy with last year’s performance, one piece of feedback did bother her.
“They said I needed to work on my projection.”
So she did.
Upon making the finals in the Columbus Symphony Young Musicians Concerto Competition this year, her bassoon projected throughout Weigel Hall on the campus of The Ohio State University. So did her beaming smile as recent Grove City High School graduate Ben McMurray, her accompanist on the piano, finished Antonio Vivaldi’s Bassoon Concerto in A Minor RV 497 Movement 1.
While Traini was not named the winner of the competition, she said she was very pleased with her performance as compared to the previous year. She even received one piece of feedback that proclaimed her performance made their day.
Traini said she does not intend to give up the piano or the bassoon. She said that even though she would like to become a lawyer in the future, she is leaving the door open to try to nab a coveted spot on a symphony orchestra.
“Law is first, but I would love to be a symphony musician,” she said.