Orchestras are on the brink of extinction claim the National Schools Symphony Orchestra (NSSO) along with the National Youth Orchestra Wales (NYOW), after today revealing that there is a severe shortage of double basses amongst the UK’s youth musicians.
The double-bass is seen by many as the anchor of the orchestra, but both NSSO and NYOW have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of people auditioning for double bass positions; NYOW’s applications dropped by 25 per cent in 2012 and NSSO’s dropped by 30 per cent.
Rebecca Woodward, NSSO representative, says, “These figures are concerning and I am certain there will be a huge follow on impact if young people continue to shun the double bass. It is an incredibly rewarding instrument to play with a rich history dating back several centuries; I fear its potential loss threatens the very existence of modern national orchestras”.
Matthew Jones, NYOW, says, “While the double bass has not traditionally been a popular choice for young musicians because of its size and cost we have always had a relatively stable amount of young players.
“The huge decline we have experienced in young double-bass musicians in recent times has come as a real surprise, and raises concern over the assembly, quality and continuation of youth and adult orchestras in future, if this trend is not reversed.”
Professional double bass player Richard Lewis believes a national call to action is needed to revive interest in the instrument.
He says, “It would appear that the drop in numbers of double bass pupils is being felt across the country. From my own experience funding had been cut by local authorities so that no pupils to my knowledge have teaching on double bass or cello in my area of Mid Wales. The double bass underpins so many music genres, and is central to the modern orchestra, so it’s saddening to see the instrument being underappreciated.
“I firmly believe more must be done by schools and music organisations countrywide to promote the value and importance of the double bass to young musicians, otherwise I fear we will see a steep decline in the quality and construction of British orchestras at a national level – which is something we must avoid.”