Tim Shaffer, Principal Double Bass
When did you begin to play your instrument?
In January of 1970 (50 years ago!), in the middle of fifth grade at my public school in Columbus, Nebraska, I decided on a whim to start playing bass.
Do you play any other instruments?
I play some piano, just enough to accompany my beginning and intermediate students.
Where did you study your main instrument; with whom?
I earned my Bachelor of Music degree in Performance from Indiana University, studying with Professors Murray Grodner and Barry Green. My first teacher in high school was Karel Netolicka, the Assistant Principal Bass of the Milwaukee Symphony at the time.
When did you join ESO?
What other orchestras have you played with/do you play with now?
My first full time job out of music school was with the New Orleans Symphony. My next position was in Germany as Principal Bass of the Westphalian Symphony in Recklinghausen, a small city about the size of Elgin in northwestern Germany. Since relocating to the Chicago area and joining the ESO, I have also enjoyed a wonderful summer job performing with the Grant Park Orchestra in Chicago. For many years I have appeared as an extra and substitute musician with the Lyric Opera Orchestra of Chicago, and I also freelance with various groups in the Chicago area throughout the year.
Your most memorable ESO performance
We played Elgar’s Enigma Variations with Andrew Grams a few months after my wife Lynn died of cancer. It was her favorite piece. The performance was wonderful and very moving for everyone—especially for me. I cried a bit during the “Nimrod” variation but managed to keep playing. Lynn loved the ESO and was understandably proud of our Bass section. She would have been thrilled with that performance.
Additional interesting information
We are living through strange and historic times, but I am grateful that my music career also brought me up close to an historic moment in Germany over 30 years ago. In November of 1989, just a few months after Lynn and I were married and started a new life and symphony job in Recklinghausen, West Germany, the Berlin Wall fell. Overnight, East Germans began streaming into the West, showing up at the doors of family members from whom they’d been separated for decades; or at any address of a West German that they happened to possess. The morning after the border opened we observed an East German car parked right in front of our apartment house! None of us had ever dreamed that the Wall and the kill zone dividing East and West would come down in our lifetimes. It was a stunning and insanely euphoric event. The emotional release we witnessed in the German people after 28 years of cruel separation was deeply touching. I have never seen so many grown men cry! Naturally, music played a huge part in the emotional celebration exploding all over the country. One of the most memorable concerts given during that extraordinary time featured Leonard Bernstein conducting Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in front of the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate.
In 2019, thirty years later, I was able to visit Berlin and witness the transformation that has occurred in that once divided city. I could not have imagined in 1989 that Berlin would grow into the brash and vibrant capital city it has now become. It gives me hope that something good may come out of the trying times we are currently experiencing in this country!