Q&A with MWF Bassoonist, Jack Sutey

Jack Sutey

When was your first encounter with music?

As a toddler, I remember waiting outside my sisters’ piano and trumpet lessons and always being super jealous. When I was 5, my mom got me started on piano lessons, and then I started going to summer band camps when I was 8 on various wind instruments. I couldn’t wait to finally join elementary school band in the 5th grade!

What led you to play the bassoon?

Both my sisters played trumpet, so it was easy for them to convince an 8-year-old to play brass. I wanted to be different, though, so I picked French horn because the bell was super cool and it plays all the amazing parts in movie soundtracks. My (soon to be) elementary school band director was a saxophonist, and after that first summer of playing horn, I got to see him perform in a local jazz band. Watching him play made me realize that I wanted to play a woodwind, so I started taking sax lessons with a local woodwind doubler. My parents were always super supportive of my musical enthusiasm. They were willing to rent different instruments for a few months at a time, so I went through a bunch of instruments before discovering double reeds. While playing sax in an after-school band program, I went through a flute phase, tried clarinet, played around with euphonium, played cello in my 4th grade orchestra, and then finally landed on bassoon. I was completely blown away by a local woodwind quintet who played an arrangement of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” at our elementary school, and I decided to switch after hearing the “Grandfather solo.” The bassoon is such a weird, quirky, complex, and unique instrument — perfect for my personality, I think!

Haha… yes. Now, when did you decide to make music a career?

Music was always extremely important to me in middle and high school, and was always the extracurricular into which I invested the most energy. That being said, I didn’t decide to pursue it as a career until I started looking at colleges. For a long time I wanted to be a syndicated newspaper cartoonist. I loved to draw, and I was totally inspired by Stephan Pastis, the artist behind “Pearls Before Swine.” I was also really into cooking, and I actually was seriously considering going to the Culinary Institute of America to become a pastry chef — I wanted to make extravagant chocolate desserts and sugar sculptures. I also strongly considered a German major, but decided that Music Ed was the right way to go for me while doing my college research.

What is your favorite memory of a performance?

Most of my favorite recent memories are with MWF! Aside from the fun of rehearsals and performances, a lot of my fondness for MWF has to do with the fact that so much work goes on behind the scenes. It is unbelievably rewarding to create our own artistic opportunities from start to finish and then to experience those plans come to fruition as a performer with my incredible friends/colleagues. It’s impossible to describe the scope of work that Tyler, Erin, and the rest of the MWF faculty do to bring us all together every summer. I’m so lucky to be a part of it!

Aside from MWF, other favorite memories that come to mind include playing with my Baroque trio at DePaul University, and performing my first “Rite of Spring” as a contrabassoonist at University of North Texas for a packed house with standing room only. Living in Chicago, I am unbelievably fortunate to have easy access to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I’m not sure why (maybe it was because I was sitting close enough to get bass rosin dust on me), but one of the most powerful performances for me as an audience member was watching them perform Messiaen’s “Turangalila.” If you haven’t heard that piece, set aside an hour or so and listen!

And finally, Jack, what are your other interests outside of music?

I still cook and draw as much as I can, but I also really got into weightlifting a number of years ago. I’ve found a remarkable number of parallels between music and weightlifting, and I’ve been able to draw from both to help with performance anxiety, discipline, and just keeping a healthy lifestyle.

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