Julia Harguindey
Principal Bassoon

Hometown: Montréal, Québec / Buenos Aires, Argentina
Member of the Nashville Symphony since 2016

Why did you want to become a musician?
From a very long time ago, it was clear that this was my path. Both of my parents are musicians – my mother is a harpsichord player and my father is a guitar player – so I grew up in a musical world. I don’t remember life without music, and it never occurred to me to do something other than music. I began with guitar, then I tried the piano, and then I found the right instrument for me, so here I am!

How did you find the bassoon?
I played the piano in elementary school, but they didn’t offer piano in high school. So I had to choose from the wind instruments. My dad said that I should choose either the oboe or the bassoon because they are both rare but beautiful, but I really liked the flute.

I came home with the flute, but my rabbit hated the high-frequency sound. One day, I went to hear a wind quintet, and they were presenting their instruments. I agreed that the bassoon was good, but I still really liked the flute. When I came home with the bassoon, though, my rabbit came and sat under my chair as soon as I played the first three sounds, so she chose what instrument I should play.

What’s most challenging about playing the bassoon, and what’s most rewarding?
Playing an instrument with double reeds is very difficult. This little piece of wood that we have to make defines everything – our tone, our response, intonation, or if it’s even going to sound at all. It’s affected by external factors such as humidity and quality of the wood, so when we wake up in the morning, we never know how we are going to sound. It’s a nonstop search for the right reed for the right piece of music. So when we’re not practicing, we’re making reeds. It’s a big part of our lives.

The bassoon is very similar to the cello, and the cello is the most similar to the human voice, so I’ve found that the bassoon is an extension of my own voice. With the deep, warm, low sound and the vibrato, you can really just let yourself sing through it.

Which composers write the best bassoon music?
Shostakovich wrote a lot of very beautiful and painful solos. Stravinsky, too, in The Rite of Spring. I also like Tchaikovsky and Ravel’s parts for bassoon.

What makes the bassoon part in The Rite of Spring so unique?
The piece is about a ritual and a sacrifice, and it starts with a huge bassoon solo representing the creation of the world. It’s in the very high register of our instrument, and it was written to sound not beautiful, but painful. The bassoon has this earthy quality, and after the solo, you’ll see there is a whole other story that unfolds.

What other orchestras have you performed with before you came to Nashville?
I played with Les Violons du Roy for many years when I was in Montréal, and they are a great ensemble. All of them care so much about music-making, and they have great energy and style. I played a lot of repertoire — Rameau, Lully and other Baroque composers — that I probably won’t play now that I’m with a big symphony orchestra. I learned a lot playing next to the double bass and being the basso continuo, and also getting to solo on Classical pieces. I miss them very much, and I’m glad I got to play pieces that weren’t really taught when I was in school.

What interested you in auditioning for the Nashville Symphony?
When I was studying at Curtis Institute, we played The Rite of Spring; I was first bassoon, and the conductor was Giancarlo Guerrero. It was my dream to be the principal bassoon of a great orchestra like this one. When I played the audition at Schermerhorn Symphony Center, I fell in love with the hall. It’s just a privilege to have such a beautiful hall with great acoustics. I saw myself here in Nashville and playing in this hall every day with my new colleagues, so I was extremely happy and honored when I won the audition.

Had you been to Nashville before? What did you know about the city?
I’d heard that it’s a great country music town, but I had never been here, and I had never heard even a single country song. When I moved here this summer, my parents joined me, and we tried to see as much as we could – we went to the Flea Market and the Farmers Market. I know I will enjoy living here, and there is so much to be discovered still.

If you could program your own orchestra concert, what works would you select?
I would start with an overture by Lully, followed by Barber’s First Symphony, which has this wonderful oboe solo. And then Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony – I’m very attached to this piece, and I never get tired of it.

What’s the most unusual thing that’s happened to you while you were performing?
I was playing at an outdoor venue with the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan. They had these giant flying bugs, thousands of them flying around while you tried to play. It was unbelievable. We were in the middle of this lyrical symphony, and we were all trying to avoid these bugs that were on the music, on us. I was using the bell of my bassoon as a sword and watching my friend hide behind the double bass, but we were there and we had to play. You could see everyone in the orchestra moving, trying to avoid the bugs. I had never seen anything like them before — they were not butterflies, not anything cute like that.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not playing music?
I love traveling. I’m very lucky that I get to travel a lot through touring as a musician. I started that way and quickly fell in love with discovering different cultures. Every year, I try to travel — when I have a few days free, I buy a plane ticket. Even if it’s to a place not very far away, I invest time in just talking to people from a culture I don’t know. I also love languages. So in addition to speaking French, Spanish and English, I’m learning my fourth language — Italian. The more I can talk to people and discover them, the happier I am.

Why does classical music matter?
We accompany the best and the worst moments of our lives with music. Orchestras are here to offer people beauty when that’s not always the case in their lives. If they are going through hard times, we can make them feel better, and if they are already happy, we will make them feel even better. As members of an orchestra, we are very lucky that we are able to create magic together. It’s my mission every day. We also have the power to open a door and make music from hundreds of years ago just appear. We can transport ourselves to those times — it’s like a big cathedral that we build every time we play.

Favorite Composer?

Favorite piece of music?
Right now, Strauss’ Oboe Concerto

Favorite musician?
Astor Piazzolla, my idol. I was born in Buenos Aires, so this is the music of my country. I bought one of his CDs in high school, and I would play along with it, on top of the bandoneón, four or five hours a day.

If I’m in love with playing my instrument, it’s because I spent so much time playing tango and playing Piazzolla’s music. I got into Curtis Institute playing tango, and I’ve played it on recital and absolutely everywhere that I could. I borrowed the cello parts to play Piazzolla’s El Gran Tango in recitals, so I’ve introduced the bassoon into tango music many times. I don’t think Piazzolla would dislike that because he introduced classical instruments into tango music.

Favorite pop musician?
I love bossa nova from Brazil — that’s my thing. I also love the Cape Verdean singer Cesaria Evoria.

What’s the first concert you ever performed?
My parents are musicians, so the first concert I attended, I was onstage! They needed children for the Haydn “Toy” symphony, so there were several children there – I was playing the triangle, and my brother was playing the recorder. So I was already a little soloist in my first concert.

Favorite venue?
The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia because it was the first place I dreamed of becoming a professional musician. I attended Philadelphia Orchestra performances there each week, and then I played there with the Curtis Orchestra, so I was sitting in the same seat as my teacher. I would look at the 2,000 seats and dream that I would one day be there for real. So I have a special connection with that hall because I grew as a musician there.

Favorite sports team?
I follow the national Argentinian soccer team, of course. It’s a big thing with my family. I also like tennis very much.

Favorite movie?
When I was a young child, I used to watch Cinema Paradiso nonstop. I probably watched it 50 times.

Favorite book?
Emile Zola’s Germinal.

Favorite food?
Argentinian asado — barbecue.