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  • Lewis Kirk, Assistant Principal Bassoon and Contrabassoon

Weirdest Gig I've Played

When I was in music school in New York City, some friends and I played most weekends on the streets of Manhattan for spare change (and dollar bills!). It was a group of two clarinets and bassoon, and we had a varied repertoire of music by Mozart, Scott Joplin, and popular melodies. It was a good way to earn grocery money and ply my trade as a musician.

We were sometimes hired for weddings and parties, and played together so often that we could play a good amount of music by memory. It happened one time that we got a gig to stroll the grounds of the Staten Island Zoo to entertain the visitors one Sunday.

After making a few rounds of the facility, we decided to walk through the ape house and play for the residents there. I think it was a Mozart Rondo we selected for this occasion of entertaining our fellow primates. As soon as our music sounded in the resonant hall, the inhabitants (prisoners?) became agitated. Curious to get a closer look at their reaction, I approached the enclosure of a chimpanzee, while continuing to play my bassoon. My proximity elicited a visceral response as the chimp rushed to the restraining bars and spit quite intentionally in my direction. Luckily, the saliva landed about 2 feet shy of my position. We had a good laugh and took that as a signal that it was time to move on to another location in the zoo.

Perhaps the baboons would have been more appreciative?

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