Pacific Symphony Musicians: In Full Bloom
Meet the bass players for the Pacific Symphony- Doug Basye and Andy Bumatay as they explore the Historic Kellogg House in Santa Ana.
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Orange County, like Pacific Symphony, cares about preserving cultural history. While visiting the historic Kellogg House in Santa Ana, built in 1899 by Hiram Clay Kellogg, to shoot the cover for this program book, the Symphony’s bass players-Doug Basye and Andy Bumatay-took a step back in time.
While ambling along jasmine-covered walkways that surround the 12-acre grounds of the Kellogg House, Andy notes, “It’s a reminder of years past and how people once lived. I’m also enjoying the orange grove and rose garden. I’d like to see it in full bloom.”
Doug found it very interesting to visit a place he “never knew existed—a bit of history right in the heart of OC.”
With its serene Victorian ambiance, the Kellogg House made everyone think about a time when classical music was bursting with masterpieces by Stravinsky, Debussy, Puccini, Dvořak, Mahler, Elgar, Gershwin, Sibelius—SO many others!
“This period in history is truly fascinating,” Doug says. “The industrial revolution was really taking hold with the dawn of flight, the mass production of cars, and humanity moving away from a rural existence and toward an urban one. In music, the Romantic period was ending with Dvořak’s time in America and the ‘New World Symphony.’”
“With Romanticism waning, new music with Stravinsky was just beginning, and George M. Cohan was composing popular music for Americans,” adds Andy. “America and the world were still innocent even though the Civil War in America foretold Realism and the coming horrors of both World Wars. Music often reflects and predicts social change.”
“Then came this amazing explosion of so many different styles,” Doug continues. “Ravel and Debussy leading the Impressionists. The Viennese were leaving tradition in the dust with Berg, Webern and Schoenberg. And Bartok and Stravinsky were giving us an amazing take on folk music…”
It was easy to let one’s mind sail away. Kellogg loved wooden sailing ships and designed a three-story high circular staircase that is the centerpiece of the home and reflects the design of ships that sailed the seas in 1898.
“The house reminded me of the Midwest and must have been a showcase in its heyday. The narrow spiral staircase was beautiful… but not for hauling our basses up!” says Andy, who grew up in Delano, Calif., working hard. Grape picker, gas station attendant, U.S. postal worker, and eventually, professional musician…
He says: “I started playing bass in high school as a freshman in 1957. One sister was a concert pianist who gave recitals; the other played piano, drums and sax and had her own dance band. My brother played sax and had his own rock band, and my third sister played piano and sang in the choir, and still conducts her church choir today… I wanted to play classical music and chose bass because no one else in my family played it.
“The day after I graduated from high school it was 120 degrees, and I was out in the grape fields tipping table grapes because my parents had no money.” Determination and education allowed Andy to sail away.
“After attending the Congress of Strings at Michigan State (best string players ages 16-21 in the U.S.), I realized I could do something in music because I enjoyed it and had some talent. I’m fortunate that I met my wife Lynn when she was working in the Post Office in Delano. I was playing in the Bakersfield Philharmonic and she came to a concert.”
Andy pursued music at UCLA, CSU Northridge and Pepperdine; he auditioned for Pacific Symphony in 1982 and was admitted as a student chair. “I was overjoyed because I’d just finished playing for the Pasadena Symphony and being the orchestra director for two high schools in Pasadena, and I was teaching at Bolsa Grande High School in Garden Grove.”
Doug started playing the bass at 12. A music director came to visit his school with young players who demonstrated their instruments. “I was sure I wanted to play something big,” he says. “My favorite whale was the blue whale. I always gravitated toward the largest things. But it was the charisma of the string teacher that cemented it. He was not only my favorite teacher, but also a wonderful friend. I still visit him when I return to Fort Collins, Colorado-my hometown.
“He believed in continually challenging students. After less than a year, I was performing one of the most difficult Mozart symphonies.”
When Doug was 13, he was sitting on the roof of a friend’s house with kids he played with in Little League. They were talking about what major league baseball team they wanted to play for. “I sat quietly on the side for a while,” he remembers. “When there was a pause, I said, ‘I want to play principal bass for the London Symphony.’ I’d just brought home the double album of the Star Wars soundtrack, recorded by the London Symphony.”
Doug went on to play for Colorado Symphony and Orquesta Sinfonica de Tenerife (Spain), before becoming Pacific Symphony’s assistant principal bass in 1994, one week after receiving his master’s degree at Carnegie Mellon University.
“I’d given up the job in Spain to come back to the U.S. for graduate school. In two years, I did 11 auditions. Pacific Symphony came at the perfect time in my life. I couldn’t have been happier.” He also plays with San Diego Symphony, Grant Park Symphony, San Diego Opera and Pittsburgh Symphony and is on faculty at CSU Long Beach and teaches privately.
In 2001, Doug left home one December evening to play Messiah. His pregnant wife, Hong, said, “I think I’m fine, but call at intermission.” He did, and was told to come home. “A few hours later, my son was born. It wasn’t until the next year playing Messiah that I realized one of the last pieces I’d played was ‘Unto Us a Child is Born.’”
A few years ago, Doug’s father passed on the day of a concert. “I was thinking I shouldn’t be there, but the closer I got to the concert, the more natural it felt. My focus was uncommonly keen. As I looked around afterwards, I understood that this concert hall, with its high ceiling, warm wood and beautiful curves-was my church. It was where I belonged.
“Music is a living, audible version of what it means to be alive… A composer can document the plight of the masses, like Shostakovich did for his people in the struggles against fascism and communism; like Beethoven did, voicing the aspirations of ALL people for dignity and unity; like Tchaikovsky did, pouring out emotion from a place deep in the heart when words could not suffice.”
Andy, who has retired from teaching music after 36 years, says: “My greatest moments have been playing in the Symphony-where you get to not only hear the music but also feel the sounds produced from inside the orchestra. I enjoy performing as a group because we are creating something that I used to dream about when I was working in the grape fields of Delano… The beautiful sounds remind me of how lucky I’ve been.”