Life in KC

On My Mind: Brandon Mason, double bassist with Kansas City Symphony

Special to The Star

Brandon Mason, who grew up in Arlington, Texas, took his first music lesson when he was 10 years old. His only instrument has been the bass.

He played in high school orchestras and studied at Boston University. He received his graduate degree from Rice University in Houston. In his final year of school, he played with the Houston Symphony. And he grew up in a musical family. His mother taught flute lessons, and Mason and his siblings all played instruments. He was the only one to make a career of it.

The double bass could be described as the largest and lowest-pitched instrument in the violin family. Often it is used to double the lines played by the cellists, he said.

His audition for the Kansas City Symphony was the first audition he’d won. Mason, 26, said he heard about the double bass opening through the musical grapevine.

On choosing the bass

“There was a presentation (in school) on which instruments to pick and that was the coolest one. And it looked like the least work. I didn’t realize it was actually the hardest string instrument to play in a lot of respects. … It didn’t hit me until college that it was actually really, really hard.”

On the KC Symphony

“I had at least some idea that the orchestra was doing well structurally,” Mason said. “And I knew about the new hall. Musicians know things are going well here. So when the audition came up, I knew if I won the audition I’d be in an orchestra that was really healthy. And that’s not necessarily the case in a lot of places.”

On his bass

His instrument is a one-of-a-kind, built by Joseph Grubaugh and Sigrun Seifert in the San Francisco Bay area. Grubaugh and Seifert are known for making high-quality violins, violas and cellos. His instrument, as far as Mason knows, is the only bass they built.

“They had a bass in the corner they didn’t want to finish for 35 years,” he said. “I don’t think they’ll ever make another.”

On practice makes perfect

“I take about one day off a week for my sanity,” he said. Mason practices on average two hours a day outside of rehearsals. “When double rehearsals roll around there’s a certain level of caution I take for myself because if you over-play, that leads to a decrease in performance quality. And it can lead to injuries. I know some people are able to do more and I think that’s admirable.”

On his younger years

“In middle school I was in kind of a punk band,” he said. “I think we played one show. We got together every weekend and had high aspirations of taking it somewhere. But it never left the garage.”