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Meet the SLSO: Sarah Hogan Kaiser, Double Bass

How did growing up in the St. Louis area shape your career?

Growing up in the St. Louis area made exposure to world class musicians and teachers easy and accessible. My dad has a saying that “Everything in St. Louis is 20 minutes away!” While that’s not always true, the size of the city made getting to bass lessons, or to Powell Hall for Youth Orchestra, or to hear the SLSO very manageable. And of course, coming to Powell Hall regularly had a big part in shaping my career. Listening to the orchestra, watching the basses play, and rehearsing on stage with the YO all had a huge part in developing my dream and vision for my career.

What makes the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra special?

One thing that sets the YO apart from other youth orchestras around the country is that they rehearse at Powell Hall, and Powell Hall is their home. Playing on stage and hearing the orchestra in this way is incomparable to playing in a rehearsal space or room. Also, the regular coachings and the side by side rehearsal with the musicians of the SLSO really help foster a nice relationship between the two orchestras.

What is the last sound (music or otherwise) that inspired you? What was moving about it?

In June, I had the opportunity to attend the International Society of Bassists Convention at my alma mater, Indiana University. I heard so many inspiring performances and masterclasses there. I love going to those conventions—I love hanging around all my fellow bassists and hearing everyone make beautiful music.

You have a weekend completely free. What do you do?

I cherish the time I have with my family! We have a 1 year old and a 4 year old. It’s so nice to have a relaxing weekend at home with them, not worrying about getting in the right mental space to go play a concert later that evening. It’s crazy getting our little ones ready for bed while simultaneously getting the energy up to go play a concert. We also like to see our extended families on the weekends, and a free weekend makes that so much easier.

What is one piece of music a person new to the classical genre should listen to? Why?

Anything played by the duo Edgar Meyer (bassist) and Béla Fleck (banjo). They create a beautiful and amazing sound together with original works and also some pieces by Bach they’ve arranged for the two of them. It’s a great gateway to classical music.

As for something more standard to the classical genre, classical music is a big part of our everyday lives, mostly due to commercials (do people still watch commercials?) Most people are very familiar with some great pieces without even knowing it. Some that come to mind are Aaron Copland’s Rodeo and Rossini’s William Tell Overture. I think a person new to the genre might enjoy hearing one of those pieces in its entirety, and learn how much more there is to it than just the part they already know.

You can have a meal with any musician, living or deceased. Who would you pick and why?

What a tough question to answer! I’d love to share a meal now with my first bass teacher, Henry Loew. He was the former Principal Bassist of the SLSO and made such a big contribution to the orchestra, on and off stage. I’ve heard so many stories about him, but I really only knew him during my awkward teenage years. I think it would be amazing to know him now, at this stage in my life and really pick his brain about music, the bass, and life in general.

Concert you’re most looking forward to playing this season?

I simply cannot wait to play Mahler’s Second Symphony with Stéphane . It is one of my all time favorite pieces to play and listen to. Everything we have done with Stéphane so far has been filled with excitement, fresh energy, and a sense of true musical beauty. There are so many different sounds that Mahler orchestrates, and I’m looking forward to his interpretation.

Who has been a key person in your career so far? Why?

Quite simply, all of my teachers. From my very first strings teacher, Mrs. Gayla Rothermich at Barretts Elementary—who more or less called Henry Loew and told him he HAD to take me as a student—to my teachers in graduate school, whose playing and ideas I try to emulate on a daily basis. And all the teachers in between. They have all helped shape me into the musician I am today, and for what I continue to strive to do.

An abbreviated version of this interview appears in the October 2019 Playbill.


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