Musician Spotlight—Meet Dan Conwell, Principal Bass

The most frequent question a double bass player gets is, “Don’t you wish you played a smaller instrument?” It’s an understandable query, but I always have to answer “no.” Bassist Ray Brown used to say that his job was to make the soloist sound good, and that supportive roll of the bass fits my personality. And, I love that growly sound; I think a good bass sounds a little like a 1950s Austin Healy sports car. On top of that, the bass has been around a long time, and I wanted access to all that literature going back to the 1500s! When I can, I study bass with Jack Steward, trying to pick up Jack’s big sound and solid time. (Jack played previously with the Philharmonic.)

I play in the orchestras in Wooster and Ashland on occasion, but my main musical job is with the Tuscarawas Philharmonic. The Philharmonic is full of fine players who are great people, and the energy that Eric puts into the music inspires us to play at our best. I have especially enjoyed playing Vaughn-Williams and Mozart’s Requiem.

A bass player is welcome wherever he or she goes, (except on elevators!), so I have also played contra dances, jazz, and chamber music, and I played last summer with the AFM Local 150 big band out of Mansfield.

Outside of the orchestra, my musical taste runs from Appalachian fiddle music to opera to Bach. This fall, my wife, Tabitha, and I made a trip to Leipzig, where Bach lived and worked. We attended two services at St. Thomaskirke featuring his music and heard the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig. After Germany, we heard music by Vivaldi at St. Martins-in-the-Field in London and jazz at the Jazz Dock in Prague. Back home in Ohio, we enjoy the Wooster Chamber Music Series, and of course, the Cleveland Orchestra.

During the week I work at the J. M. Smucker Company supporting the R&D group. My product line responsibilities include Pillsbury frostings and mixes as well as our fruit spreads. My work is in the pilot plants where we make batches larger than benchtop but smaller than the factory.

In between work and the Philharmonic I seem to have an affinity for old things; Olympia typewriters, MG roadsters, and our 150-year-old farmhouse near Wooster.

Playing with the Philharmonic has been a goal of mine since I started subbing back in the Dover High School days, and I want to say thank you to my fine section mates and all the many people who make this orchestra a reality.

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