Bassoonist Nicholas Richard won the Concerto Competition in his first year of study. Photo: Courtesy of Nicholas Richard.
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Nicholas Richard soloing on bassoon with university’s Symphony Orchestra

The bassoon will get its chance to shine as Nicholas Richard, a second-year music student at the University of Ottawa, takes the spotlight alongside the U of O Orchestra as they perform at St. Joseph’s Church on Oct. 6.

As the winner of the university’s annual Concerto Competition, Nicholas Richard, a originally from Fredericton, New Brunswick, will get a chance to showcase not only his talents, but also the sound of the bassoon—an often neglected instrument in the orchestra.

“Lots of people in the music building are like, what’s that, it’s funny,” Richard admits of his chosen instrument.

“(The bassoon is) a wind instrument—so it has sort of a nasally woody character to it, but it’s also round and warm and in the orchestra. You don’t hear it all the time, it’s a very good blending instrument but it’s really very beautiful,” Richard said.

Richard originally played the French horn, but was having a hard time learning the instrument. When he first heard the bassoon he was struck by the beauty of it, and after a months-long process of coming to terms with switching instruments, he made the change permanent when he was 13.

Originally attending the U of O with the intention of getting a degree in the sciences, he changed his mind over the course of his first year, having been playing his bassoon more than he was doing homework.

Richard was no longer enjoying his program, since music, he realized, was the only thing he wanted to do with his life. So he made the program switch and hasn’t regretted it since.

“(I) may as well give it a really good chance and if at a certain point it doesn’t work, just go back,” Richard said.  

After only one year, that switch has seemed to pay off. His first-place finish in  the Concerto Competition is a great start to his desired career as a bassoonist in a professional orchestra, as he will not only be gaining actual orchestral experience, but has already proven his musical proficiency.

“To win was very surprising—I can’t underline that enough. It was very shocking for me to win, especially a bassoon, especially playing a work by Mozart that isn’t the flashiest music,” Richard said, thanking his support system—his parents, friends, and teachers—for all their help in the process.

Richard’s lasting words to anyone wanting to pursue classical music is to work hard, because hard work and devotion is what the music deserves.

“It all comes back to this process of just trying to give the music what it deserves and just focus on that,” Richard said.  No one will ever be as good as the music deserves, he believes, but everyone should continue pushing themselves to be as close to that point as possible.

The U of O Symphony Orchestra featuring Nicholas Richard as soloist play their first concert on Oct. 6 at St. Joseph’s Church at 8 p.m. Donations are appreciated. 


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