Meet TSO’s New Principal Bassoon, Marissa Olegario

by Tucson Symphony
Meet TSO’s New Principal Bassoon, Marissa Olegario

After a grueling series of auditions, we are happy to announce that we have appointed 14 new musicians. Over the next few issues of Encore, we will be introducing you to each of the new musicians through short interviews.

What age did you start playing music?

My mom jokes that I began singing right out of the womb. But I did start singing quite young. My mom sings (she and my dad met as musicians in a wedding band). My grandpa was a great singer. So, I started voice lessons at a young age and grew up with karaoke in the house. So, it has always been a part of my life.

What was your first instrument?

My first instrument was piano, but only for a year. I started taking lessons a few years after my oldest brother started. But I could never get as good as him (I know, totally unrealistic goal) so I quit. I picked up the clarinet in 4th grade band class and switched to the bassoon halfway through the 6th grade.

When did you know that you wanted to pursue music professionally?

I think I always knew but it didn’t occur to me that it was possible. My entire family is passionate about music. But I didn’t grow up listening to classical music and no one pursued a path in music professionally. So, though music brought me most joy and I felt most comfortable and myself in the environment, I always thought I was supposed to do something else, like become a medical doctor or lawyer. I think it was after my junior year of high school that I at least knew I wanted to study music in college. I only applied to universities and not conservatories so that I could engage in other subjects. I ended up going to Northwestern University and studying with my dream teacher Christopher Millard.

What was the audition process like for you?

The audition process for TSO was stressful. Auditions always are. For this one in particular, it was so close to home so there was a different kind of pressure, I can’t really explain it. Since moving here five years ago and teaching full time at the University of Arizona, I hadn’t been on the audition circuit. I took one audition about 1½ months before the TSO audition which really helped my preparation for TSO. I think I learned a lot from the five-year break from auditioning. I’ve certainly learned a lot from my students and from teaching. I really tried to practice what I preach if you will and did a lot of things differently than I did five years ago. So, there’s a lot to say about this audition. It is very special to me.

What advice do you give your students who are starting the audition process?

An audition is so different from any other musical experience. It’s an immensely condensed snippet of the big picture. I advise my student to keep the big pictures of each excerpt in mind and, at the end of all the intense preparation, to strive toward making music.

What concert are you most looking forward to this season and why?

This season is so incredible, I couldn’t have asked for a better first year! I’m really looking forward to Verdi’s Requiem and Holst’s Planets. Oh, and Beethoven 4 and Calexico, and Indiana Jones.

What do you love about the bassoon in general and your instrument in particular?

I love that the bassoon can play a variety of roles and characters. Because the bassoon’s range covers three and a half octaves, it can play down low with the cellos and basses but can also exhibit a wonderful and colorful tenor soloistic sound. It is so fun to be able to explore all of these possibilities. My bassoon is a Heckel 10,000 series built in Germany in 1961. It only had one other owner before me who never played professionally so when I purchased the instrument it really felt special, like it was made for me. I feel like I can do so much on my instrument so naturally. I’m incredibly grateful to have such a wonderfully constructed instrument, my partner, that supports what I want to express musically.