Bassist Bert Witzel joins the ISO from the Louisville Orchestra, having won our latest bass audition in the fall of 2018. A native of Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland, Bert studied at the Curtis Institute of Music before joining the Louisville Orchestra as Principal bass.
Now that he’s settled himself in Indianapolis for a few months, we sat Bert down to ask him about his history as a musician:
How did you end up deciding to play bass?
I wanted to learn the bass guitar in middle school because I was really into the alternative music of the 90’s and wanted to play in a band with my friends. I auditioned on bass guitar at the Baltimore School for the Arts, and was accepted on the condition that I learn the upright bass to play in orchestra.
Eventually I fell in love with the upright bass and the rest is history.
What about the specific instrument you play on?
I play a bass that was made around 1820 by John Frederick Lott I, who was known as the “King of the English Double Bass Makers”. This bass lived in England for most of its life and was previously played by the former principal bassist of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Is there a piece that you can’t get enough of?
When I saw the ISO season programming for this season I was so excited to see we are going to perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. It is one of my absolute favorite pieces of music and I have been practicing and listening to it to get ready for the performance. This symphony packs a huge emotional punch. It’s an amazing, moving piece with really fun bass lines.
Mahler is definitely my favorite composer.
Are there any special moments you’ve had while performing?
In the Louisville Orchestra I was asked to play bass guitar in the “Rock Band” for Bernstein’s Mass. The piece calls for a small ensemble on stage made up of two guitars, bass guitar, and drum set. We were asked to wear street clothes and most of the parts we played had a rock feel. It was really fun!
What kind of interests do you have outside the orchestra?
I enjoy dabbling in photography, especially while exploring the city. In my free time I am usually listening to a variety of music or reading mystery novels. I can quote pretty much any Simpsons episodes from Season 2 to Season 8.
Oh, and I play a mean game of cribbage!
Some images that Bert shared with us from his recent travels, including a few shots of Indianapolis: