Meet Elisabeth (Elis) Schroeder, bassoonist with Peterborough Symphony Orchestra

27 Dec 2016, Posted by Sarah Lazure in News

Elis Schroeder is one of several young community musicians to join the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra this season. She plays the bassoon, but this was not always her instrument of choice. Elis explains, “I started playing music when I was very young, first on piano, and then on violin. So when it came time for me to choose an instrument in middle school for the band, naturally I chose… the bass clarinet. It was soon very obvious to me (and the people around me) that the bass clarinet was not the instrument for me.”

When her band teacher needed a bassoon player, Elis jumped at the chance, and it became clear that the bassoon was the right instrument for her. She excelled, quickly surpassing her band classmates. Within a year Elis was playing with the Winnipeg Youth Orchestra.

For Elis, music is not simply about making melodies. Instead, she describes music as “the purest form of communication.” She goes on, “Through music you can express emotional feelings that would be otherwise impossible to communicate. So as someone who has relative difficulty conveying my emotions or thoughts through words, music allows me to express those things to their fullest extent.”

Elis comes from a large family of singers who communicate and celebrate through music. “When we all get together for the holidays, or even just for a meal, we always sing. Even singing a simple prayer before we eat can turn into a four to eight part harmony ordeal!”

Like many PSO musicians, Elis finds it difficult to pinpoint her favourite composer and musical composition, but she describes Vaughan Williams as having always held a small part of her heart. “My Vaughan Williams love affair started when I first heard his Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, and continued when I played his Hodie, a completely different kind of piece,” she says. “Hodie was written very late in his life in 1954, four years before he died, and it is influenced heavily by the 20th century music which had become quite popular. Recently, however my gaze has shifted back to his more flowing and lyrical Prelude to his Viola Suite.”

Elis explains that one of her most favourite pieces of music is Korsakov’s Scheherazade. “I was fortunate enough to play [it] in my third year of university. I love this piece for its amazing themes and writing (and bassoon solos), but also for its programmatic qualities. When a piece has programmatic qualities such as the story of Scheherazade told through this piece, it is so much more exciting to play and to listen to.”

Elis moved to Peterborough after completing university and found herself in need of a community and a place to continue playing music. She was introduced to the PSO and auditioned for Maestro Newnham in the fall. “So far I love the community of musicians and I love having somewhere to play with other talented musicians,” she says.

Elis not only plays the bassoon with the PSO, she is also learning how to make them locally. In September, Elis began working as an apprentice at Bell Bassoons near Stoney Lake, with owner Ben Bell. Ben is the PSO’s principal bassoonist and a world-renowned bassoon craftsperson. Of the experience, Elis says, “Since I started I have done so many different things! When I first started though I found myself a little lost amongst all the heavy machinery, but since then I’ve learned how to use saws, drill presses, lathes, and a plethora of pliers and files. As a bassoon maker I still have many skills left to learn, but I do learn something new every day.”

Outside of playing music and her bassoon making apprenticeship, Elis spends much of her spare time composing music. She loves art, including drawing, colouring, painting, sewing and designing. She also enjoys softball, Ultimate and the sport of curling.