San Antonio Symphony Double Bassist Nicholas Browne's Summer In A Silo

Aug 13, 2014

I've been doing a series with San Antonio Symphony musicians and how they are spending their summer vacations. Meet Nicholas Browne, who is one of the symphony’s newer members.

“In January I won the audition for the symphony, and in February I moved down to San Antonio and started the job,” he said.

The Pittsburgh native loves the city, the symphony, and his instrument, which is double bass.  

“It’s a difficult instrument,” he said.

I asked him to explain to people what a double bass is.

“The term double bass is synonymous with string bass, upright bass, contra bass,"he said. "A lot of the time the bass is doubling what the cello plays, but an octave lower. We don’t get to be in the spotlight very often.”

I had to ask if double bass players are kind of like Rodney Dangerfield: They don’t get no respect.

He laughed, but quickly followed that up with something about he symphony's upcoming season.

“Actually, this upcoming season in particular there’s going to be a lot of noise coming from the bass section," Browne said. "With the Strauss Festival, and Mahler and Shostakovich, it’s going to be a lot of bass.”

I asked him how he'd spent his summer vacation. Like other symphony players, he had an interesting story.

“I went up and played Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Philadelphia (Orchestra) at the Mann Center, and then at the Wolf Trap Festival in Virginia," he said. "And then I went on to Maine, where I’ve been living on the southern coast at a campground.”

More specifically, a KOA Campground. And he’s staying very much in practice, in an unusual practice space -- an old grain silo.

“A lot of people will hear sounds coming from the silo and a lot of times I’ll have the door open and they’ll come by and say, ‘Hey, that’s a really big guitar you’re playing there,’ or, ‘That’s a really big violin.’ I get to sort of tell them a little about the bass.”

I noted that next month he'll be playing in a brand new hall.

“Oh yeah, Tobin Center. (I) cannot wait!” he said.