Bits 'n' Pieces: Double bassist earns solo spotlight

By Ashley Swanson, Columbian features news coordinator

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Nicholas Arredondo wanted to make his last concert with the Portland Youth Philharmonic one to remember. He will be one of two soloists featured in the philharmonic’s spring concert, which will wrap up the orchestra’s 90th season. Not only will the concert feature two soloists — a rarity, according to Arredondo — it will be the first time in the philharmonic’s recorded history that a double bassist will be a featured soloist.

“I had been preparing these solos for the college auditions I had been taking,” the 15-year-old said. Currently a student at Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, Arredondo will be attending the Colburn School in Los Angeles in the fall.

Now the orchestra’s principal double bass, Arredondo has been with the philharmonic for the past three seasons.

“When I saw the bass, the sheer size of it just struck me,” he said. He began learning the double bass through jazz orchestra in middle school, but switched to being a classical player after taking one of PYP’s free bass classes with members of the Oregon Symphony.

“The music just seemed to suit me better. I like jazz music a lot,” Arredondo said, but “I’m a more methodical person. More technical music and set rules or guidelines kind of drew me toward classical music.”

But he first had to master the use of a bow.

“The weird part is learning to hold this unnatural stick in your hand and try to pull a nice sound from your instrument.”

Arredondo will perform Giovanni Bottesini’s Concerto No. 2. Bottesini was an Italian composer and considered a double bass virtuoso.

“(The bass concerto) is also one of the most technically challenging pieces for double bass,” Arredondo said, “One of the things that makes it so difficult is just that I’m playing it on the base.” He said the piece requires his hands to constantly jump up and down the base, often completely bending over his instrument to play.

“It’s pretty nerve-racking,” he said. “I’ve never really soloed for a crowd or soloed in front of an orchestra.” But it will also be in front of his peers and teachers, whom he considers a big family.

“I would not be where I am today without their help and support,” Arredondo said.

You can catch Nick Arredondo’s solo performance and the rest of the Portland Youth Philharmonic during the Spring Concert at 4 p.m. May 4 at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway, Portland. Tickets are $11 to $40. Call 503-223-5939 or visit portlandyouthphil.org.

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.