Now Hear This: An Interview with Laura Bennett Cameron
Dr. Laura Bennett Cameron – performer, teacher, authority on French composer Roger Boutry. Read on to learn more about the musician and her special connection with the pieces on Saturday’s program, WOOD MUSIC.
What piece on the program are you most excited about? What should we listen for? Oh! That’s a tough one. For me, I think I’m the most excited to play the Poulenc. It’s a standard chamber work for the bassoon, but this will be my first time to play it! I think the Glinka will also be interesting; it’s usually performed with violin or clarinet, so we’re breaking the mold a little using the oboe -- but listening to the piece, it’s a natural and beautiful fit. I’m Paris right now, and just put the finishing touches on Rencontres with the sound engineer, and so I’ve got a renewed excitement for that piece, too. This concert will be the work’s Dallas premiere!
You recorded a CD of Roger Boutry’s music WITH Roger Boutry also performing. How did that come about? What was that experience like? Absolutely sublime. Boutry was a big name in French music for most of the 20th century, and we recorded in France. It was like a dream come true to work with a musician of his caliber, with his finesse and technical skill. It could have been terrifying to record a composer’s works with the composer, but he was kind, flexible, and appreciative. The week we recorded that CD will always be one of the high points in my life: making beautiful music, working with a living composer, and enjoying the food and culture of Paris with Parisians.
Is chamber music for bassoon a big part of the repertoire? It really is. I love playing chamber music for the same reasons many musicians do: the intimacy, sharing creative control over the artistic direction, and the blend of timbres. But being bassoonist who plays chamber music is especially great: the bassoon can play very high, very low, and everywhere in between. So that means we’re equally at home as the supportive bass line, a flexible inner voice, or as the soloist or melody. Chamber music really allows bassoonists to showcase what a unique instrument we play.
How old were you when you started playing bassoon? Why did you choose it? Did you learn other instruments? I actually started on the saxophone! My band director said, “Laura, we have too many saxes. We need more bassoons.” I said, “OK.” I remembered my mom, listening to WRR, saying, “Oh, do you hear that beautiful bassoon?” several times, so I thought it might make her happy. I started in eighth grade. Within just a few months, the bassoon became a part of my body. I was much better at the bassoon than I ever was at the saxophone; I simply fell in love with the instrument. When my sister, a college music major, came home for Christmas that year, I asked her how a person could make a living playing bassoon. She said, “Do you want to play or teach?” I said, “Both!” So she told me to get a doctorate and practice a lot. As a matter of fact, I met Emily Levin playing chamber music during my doctorate!
What type of music did you listen growing up? As I mentioned earlier, my mother had great taste in classical music, so I got to hear a lot of WRR. For an amateur singer, my mother had a surprising amount of baroque period instrument recordings, so I heard a lot of Bach and Mozart growing up. I didn’t realize until much later how fortunate I was to have those excellent recordings in my ear from a young age.
What do you listen to now? I’m ashamed to admit that I listen to a lot of pop. Like, Top 40, usually-not-that-creative pop. :-\ Heaven help the person who hears me in my car or the shower!
Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? Such thought-provoking questions! To listen, perhaps Beethoven or Stravinsky. They’re very different but engage the listener with equally complex music. I think to play, it’s probably Mozart. His music requires technique, but even more finesse. It’s playful and sophisticated, and at times fraught with more emotion than most classical music. Mozart and really comes alive with the right interpretation, and I love creating that interpretation with others.
What advice would you give 14-year-old Laura? Listen to more –and better–bassoon recordings! There’s more repertoire out there than you think. Hang on every word your bassoon teacher says. And you should practice with a metronome more.
What advice would you give a high schooler who wants to pursue music in college? (1) Find someone who does what you want to do when you graduate. Ask them how they got there. (2) Know what you want to sound like, and truly listen to yourself when you practice. You’ll never make worthwhile changes to your playing because someone tells you to: you will only improve when you’re not satisfied with the distance between yourself and your goal.
What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical), and your least favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? My favorite sound is either my husband’s voice (sappy, I know), or the sound of my dog running to greet me at the door.
When you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert do you hope to hear? Hmm…I want to hear Brahms tell me he’s written a sonata for bassoon and piano, and I’m just in time to hear the heavenly premiere.