Daniel Tosky: Discovering the magic of double bass

by Elena See, Minnesota Public Radio
March 7, 2014

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — The New World Symphony prides itself on creating engaging and welcoming musical programs: programs anyone can appreciate, whether or not they know anything about classical music. That welcoming atmosphere is one reason first-year double bass fellow Daniel Tosky really enjoys being in South Florida with the New World Symphony. He's got some strong ideas about how to build an audience for classical music, and the New World Symphony is, he believes, the right place to develop some of those ideas.

"Audiences could appreciate what we do better if the state of music education was in a better place, I believe. I know that's the route that I took to become involved with classical music and to learn to appreciate it. Definitely you can build audiences that way, if people are exposed to it at a younger age. If they get to play it first-hand, if they just have that initial exposure to it, they'll learn to see it for what it is. After that, the power of the music can just lead people."

Tosky is from Hickory, North Carolina and this is his first year with the New World Symphony. He might be passionate about classical music and building an audience for classical music now, but 14 years ago, Daniel decided to join orchestra for an altogether different reason.

"I started playing the double bass in sixth grade. My middle school had a string orchestra, and it also had a band. At the time I kind of associated band with marching bands and football games and such, and that didn't really appeal to me, so orchestra it was.

"I got to go to the middle school and see all the instruments in person, and I guess, being a typical boy at that age, I was naturally interested in things that were very large — giant robots and rockets and stuff — so as soon as I saw the rack of basses in the corner, I just headed straight for them and I don't even recall looking at any other instruments at all.

"Neither of my parents really have a musical background, and I think they were pretty skeptical about the size of the instrument, but I think they were more wary about having to listen to a beginning violinist, so I don't really recall them objecting."

For a few years, Tosky had a pretty casual attitude towards music and towards the double bass. Things changed, however, when he was about 13. He started working with a very supportive school music director, and she introduced him to a big name in the world of double bass.

"She gave me a stack of Edgar Meyer CDs, and when I just listened to those it really blew my mind. It just completely changed my perception of what was possible on the bass. I remember there was a particular track, it was a recording of Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen. It was a transcription by him on the bass, and I remember in my MP3 player I used to keep track of how many times [I'd] listened to a particular song. I must have listened to that 500 times — just over and over and over again."

Tosky's known for a while now that he wants to pursue a career in classical music, and the choice to come to South Florida after he was done with his education was, he says, an easy one.

"As a performance major in school, you're taking auditions; my dream is to play in a major symphony orchestra. For one, New World is a financially stable situation and it allows us to continue taking auditions to achieve our dream, and also it's a very professional environment. I get to come, sit down, and play great music every day. It's great conductors, and my colleagues are all phenomenal.

"Just having that connection and being able to directly interact with something that just stimulates me that way is more than enough motivation to want to make a career out of music."

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