Following 25 years at the helm of Eastman School of Music's Bassoon Studio, Professor John Hunt announced his retirement. Starting his teaching career at West Virgina University and Florida State, Prof. Hunt became Eastman's full-time bassoon faculty in 1991. Since then, he has taught over 125 Eastman bassoonists, including Peter Kolkay, Lori Wike, Lynn Hileman, Mike Harley, Ann Bilberback, Joyce Fleck, and the infamous Breaking Winds Quartet's - Brittany Harrington-Smith, Yuki Katayama, Kara LaMoure and Lauren Yu Ziemba. After having taught so many young bassoonists, Prof. Hunt simply told me, "It's time."
When informing the Dean of his decision, the one request Prof. Hunt made was that the school not divuldge the information until after he had first spoken to his studio. So, this past September, on the first studio night, and after completing the regular introductions and studio guidelines review, Professor Hunt advised his students that he would be leaving at the end of the school year.
There was a deafening silence... and then tears. The almost instantaneous outpouring of heart-warming responses that followed, has been outstanding! Alumni reached out immediately, stopping by and communicating by phone and via social media. Seeing so much support certainly makes one realize all the more, how very fortunate we have been, and what a lasting impression he has left on so many.
I remember well the first time I met John Hunt. It was at the start of my nerve-wracking graduate auditions. Of the seven schools that I applied to, Eastman was the first audition. I hadn't taken an audition in quite a while and to be performing for the one of the top music schools in the country, well it was rather intimidating.
When it came to my turn, Prof. Hunt welcomed me at the door, sat down in a chair and, once I got settled, started asking questions. What do I have to play for him? Where am I from? What are my goals as a player? What makes Eastman stand out to me? We chatted, I played my repertoire, he asked me to make a few adjustments, I matched a few pitches from the piano, and we were done.
Only after I had left, did I realized that within a few minutes of entering the room, my nerves had disappated. Through-out the audition Prof. Hunt treated me not like some arbitrary student bassoonist, but rather like an individual. He provided an informal and welcoming environment that allowed us to get to know one another. To this very day, it has been the only audition I have walked out of smiling.
Shortly after receiving Eastman's acceptance letter, I got a call from Prof. Hunt, "I'm simply following up to see if you have any questions or concerns." We talked for a time about what I could expect from him and the school, should I choose to accept. Between that audition and phone call, I was given great insight into what was to come in the following years: a positive, welcoming attitude and attentive interest and care.
In his studio, Prof. Hunt encourages and supports any piece, festival, competition or audition we bring to the table, and the students not only perform for each other, but also are expected to provide one another feedback. Should we have input or thoughts regarding the studio or guest artists, he always lends an ear and takes the suggestions seriously.
For me, as someone heading on to a more independent level of education, Prof. Hunt's personality and techniques have allowed me to find my own path and grow. In lessons, his teaching philosophy is to make you become aware of your own surroundings and to ask the right questions. Rather than telling you what to do, he guides by asking questions - "How are you shaping this? Why did you choose to phrase it this way? What can help you determine how to develop this?" The end result - he is training us to be our own teacher.
On the Hunt for a New Professor:
With Prof. Hunt's "passing the reed," so to speak, Eastman is currently in the market for a new bassoon teacher. The preliminary round of resumes are due on December 1st, 2015 - details of the position are posted online at International Double Reed Society's news section.
The studio is nervously anticipating the upcoming artists' visits in Spring 2016 and we recognize that we are most fortunate to experience the variety of masterclasses, recitals and bassoon talent that will be coming our way. However, the experience will be a bittersweet one. Somone will be hired, and no doubt they will be very qualified, but no one can quite fill the shoes of our mentor, teacher and studio leader, John Hunt.
Eastman Bassoon Studio