Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s bassoonist joins Bienen faculty

Annie Bruce, Reporter

Becoming a university professor has always been a dream for David McGill.

That dream will become a reality in September when McGill joins the staff of the Bienen School of Music.

McGill, who has been the principal bassoon for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the past 17 years, will be a full-time bassoon professor.

“I was very lucky to have studied with what might be considered the very last of the old guard of music teachers in Philadelphia,” he said. “So I feel like it’s on my shoulders to carry on what they gave to me, and after 30 years of performing in an orchestra, I felt like, well, it’s time.”

Making the decision to leave the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and come to Northwestern was a “double-edged sword” for McGill, but he said the experiences he’s had working with Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, Bernard Haitink and Riccardo Muti has taught him a lot that he hopes to pass on to Northwestern students. Muti is also the commencement speaker for NU’s class of 2014.

“Getting the great opportunity to know personally and to work closely with Riccardo Muti has changed my life and has educated me beyond the education I got at school,” McGill said. “I feel like that’s also something I can bring to the students at Northwestern, is a working knowledge of orchestral playing and musicianship that comes not only from my teachers but also from my wonderful bosses, if you want to call them that, and my colleagues in the orchestra.”

McGill said he is excited to watch students at NU develop as they master the basics of control, expression and musical understanding.

In addition to his musical experience, McGill has written “Sound in Motion: a Performer’s Guide to Greater Musical Expression,” a book about musical thought. He is in the process of writing two other books, including one about bassoon techniques.

“One of the wonderful perks of being a university professor is that other academic pursuits, such as writing, recording, composing are all encouraged,” he said.

Bienen Prof. Steven Cohen, chair of the search committee, said in order to fill the bassoon professor position, a worldwide notice was sent out to various musical and educational journals, and a committee of about five reached out to potential candidates in the field.

Once candidates were selected, they were invited to campus to attend meetings and interviews, meet students and faculty, teach a master class and play a recital.

Cohen said McGill is one of the top musicians in the world in the bassoon field.

“He just blew us away with his attention to detail, his demeanor with the students, his knowledge of music, his overall view of music,” Cohen said. “It was just the complete package.”

By becoming a professor, McGill is also continuing a family legacy. His grandfather, who passed away in 1976, was the head of the physics department at the University of Tulsa. McGill said he keeps a picture of his grandfather in his bedroom to remember him.

“I do believe that becoming a full-time professor is the fulfillment of a dream for me,” he said. “And now, once again, there’ll be a university professor in the family, and I’m very proud of that.”

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