Humans of Pacific Symphony: Meet Bassist Doug Basye
“I feel like music has always told me stories from a very early age, even before I started playing. Class Act is a chance to have stories come alive. This is probably the most special thing that Pacific Symphony has given me”
As a young boy in elementary school, Doug Basye was attracted and amazed by all things impressively large: dinosaurs, planes, whales, trains, and skyscrapers. So it was no wonder that when first introduced to musical instruments during a presentation at his school, he instantly gravitated towards the bass. He was inspired by one of the speakers at the presentation, Steve McNeal, who would soon become his teacher, mentor, and who Basye described as “one of the most important people in my life.” From there, Basye began his impressive journey as a talented music student. He would one day make music his career and join Pacific Symphony, where he is currently assistant principal bass and acting principal.
Basye attributes his musical success to the amazing teachers he connected with throughout the years. The lineage of all his instructors is quite fascinating, and Basye emphasizes how lucky he was to be a part of it. McNeal was a renowned teacher who gave Basye a strong foundation to build his music career. Not only did he introduce Basye to the bass, but McNeal was also his instructor every day for six years. Then in 9th grade, Basye began studies with Chet Hampson, a member of the Denver Symphony and a past pupil of Lawrence Hurst. Hurst was a legendary bass instructor who Basye went on to study with at the University of Indiana. The baton was passed to Jeff Turner for graduate school years at Carnegie Mellon University. Turner was also a past student of Hurst.
“You can trace these teachers back about five generations to the grandfather of the French bow. So it’s really interesting to me how that all worked out. It was definitely the luck of meeting the right people and then following that path.”
After graduating from the University of Indiana, this path led him to the long and arduous journey of auditioning for orchestras. Basye remembered his audition for Pacific Symphony in 1994 was particularly exhausting, starting early in the morning and concluding at 10:00 p.m.
“When you’re auditioning, you have that pressure to be perfect. I remember I “cacked” the last note of my audition. I thought I was done and lost the audition. I waited and waited for the results, and I really thought I didn’t get it. Then they brought me back in and told me I won! It was a huge celebratory moment for me.”
Joining Pacific Symphony was an important step for Basye and his musical career. It has inspired him, challenged him, and opened up brand-new opportunities.
One unique aspect about the organization that Basye believes separates it from other career orchestras is its education and community engagement programs. Basye has been involved with the Symphony’s Class Act since 1998. This incredible program connects the Symphony to local elementary schools every year and provides musical expertise and lessons with a Symphony musician.
“I get to share my favorite music the way I want to share it and develop interesting ways to reach kids. Every year is tell a story. Last year, I did “The Firebird” story and matched Stravinsky’s music to my own rendition of the classic Russian folk-tale. I feel like music has always told me stories from a very early age, even before I started playing. This is a chance to have those stories come alive. This is probably the most special thing that Pacific Symphony has given me.”
One of his favorite memories with the Symphony was in 2006 when the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall opened. This historic move into the hall was an important milestone for the Symphony and a fond memory for many of its long-time musicians. Basye recalled one of his first performances at the new concert hall and how truly extraordinary the experience was for him. They were playing “Lux Aeterna” by Morten Lauridsen, a transcendent piece for chorus and orchestra.
“One movement from this piece was a-cappella, so no orchestra. I closed my eyes to enjoy the moment. I felt like I was floating. I was at the top of the concert hall; the music just carried me up there. It was a very special moment. One thing I love about our concert hall is it’s one of the few places where the outside world stops, and everyone just listens.”
Even with his involvement in so many facets of the Symphony, Basye believes that the organization offers a good work-life balance to pursue other passions and raise a family.
Since childhood, Basye has found enjoyment and meaning in woodworking. He mentioned how as a boy, he made a dollhouse for his sister, a checkerboard for his father, and the bed frame for his room. He grew up with the understanding that if you needed something, you made it. As an adult, he graduated to more challenging home improvement projects. His designs and craftsmanship earned him a spot in a local edition of Architectural Digest. One project he is particularly proud of is his “Pandemic Table.” It was a project of blood, sweat, and tears, one could say.
“It’s a coffee table that turns into a dining table. That was my first project where I had a big shop accident. I shot a piece of wood into my arm! I actually fainted!”
When not woodworking, performing, or teaching, you can find Basye either skateboarding or reading fantastical novels by Christopher Moore. Basye lives in his self-designed home with his wife, Hong. Together they raised their son Aaron, who currently attends Brandeis University as a business major and plays on the school’s tennis team.
Samantha Horrocks is a guest blogger currently enrolled as a senior at California State University, Fullerton studying Communications with a concentration in Entertainment and Tourism.