The Brilliant Bassoonist

People often overlook one group at this school — the band. Present at every home football game and always around for pep rallies, the school band contributes significantly to the school spirit.

Similarly, many overlooks the individual achievements of band members. Through the years, many band members have reached some kind of recognition. One of the newest members of this group is bassoonist Evan Johnson.

Johnson’s journey towards music began long ago. He said, “In the fifth grade I went to eStem. eStem didn’t have any arts programs and I was a little disappointed. One day on the news, I heard about a new public middle school in west Little Rock. After some resistance from my mom, I finally convinced her to let me go to Pinnacle View Middle School (PVMS).”

Although Johnson is now squarely focused on a certain subset of instruments, his initial choice was literally left up to chance. Johnson said, “For the band, there were three options: woodwind, brass, and percussion. I knew I wanted to do either brass or woodwind so I just flipped a coin. I ended up taking the woodwind class.”

As with the category of instrument, Johnson happened into playing the individual instrument of choice — the bassoon. Johnson said, “On the first day of band class, while we were deciding what instruments we would end up playing, Mrs. Jessica Perry [Johnson’s middle school band teacher] asked if anyone would like to play the bassoon. I said I was interested.

“If I’m being honest I probably chose to play bassoon because I wanted to be a little different. One day during lunch that same week, she had me come in and try the bassoon out. She thought that I was pretty good at making a sound, so she let me play bassoon in the band.”

Although Johnson is most skilled in the bassoon, his musical abilities do not stop there. He also can play the contrabassoon, tenor saxophone, and oboe. Although all of these instruments are in the woodwind family, each instrument contains subtleties that make each unique. Johnson said, “The bassoon and contrabassoon are woodwind instruments in the double reed family and they are usually made of wood. The contrabassoon is much larger and an octave lower than the bassoon. The tenor sax is a single-reeded instrument made out of brass, but still a woodwind.”

Over the years, Johnson has had a variety of instructors, but they all have contributed to his musical development. In addition to his teachers, Johnson also receives private lesson. He also attended the Maine-based New England Music Camp in the summer of 2022. 

All of Johnson’s training led up to early February, when Johnson attended the Arkansas All-State Auditions. Johnson said, “It was a day-long event. After a while, I went into my audition room and I think I did really well. I had been practicing for this audition for around four months. Beforehand, I had auditioned for All-Region which is a smaller pool of people. I placed second there and went on to state auditions. 

“Later that night, I ended up ranking fourth in the state. I was really excited when I found this out, because in the moment I didn’t even know if I was going to make it. I ended up getting moved up to third because one of the bassoonists above me dropped out.”

Band members feel Johnson’s presence in the band room. Senior percussion player Colin Foley said, “He is definitely one of the most focused people in the band room. He has a strong presence.”

Very few people are lucky enough to be able to claim to be third in the state, in a region of over 3,000,000 people and nearly half a million school-age children. Johnson is one of the lucky few. However, he thanks those who helped him to get to this point. He said, “I wouldn’t be anywhere in my music career without the many educators that have helped me.”

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