Welcome Sam Shuhan, Double-Bass
Photo credit: Elizabeth Shuhan
Where are you from? Ithaca, NY
What made you choose the bass and do you play other instruments?
In addition to upright bass, I play electric bass and piano. The bass came to me in sort of a roundabout way. I played the violin as kid without much success. Eventually, my school music teacher approached me about switching because I was pretty tall and we had no bassists in our school orchestra. I decided to give it a try and I immediately took to it. It helped that my best friend at the time was the last stand cellist.
Where did you go to school? I did my undergrad at Ithaca College and master’s at the University of Southern California.
Were you in school, or where were you playing when you auditioned for Lyric? Just out of school. I was Associate Principal Bass at the LA Opera when I auditioned for Lyric.
Any memorable moments in preparing for your audition or from your audition itself? Probably the most memorable part of the audition was the day of the audition itself. Because of work, I had to take a Sunday redeye out of LAX to arrive in time for my 3:00pm audition time on Monday. My redeye was delayed and I didn’t land until about 5am CST. By the time I got my bass from baggage claim (as always, hoping it was still in one piece) and checked into my Airbnb, it was almost 8am. My stool never made it either, and I always sit when I play. I was most worried about this, not only because I was missing my stool but because I had grown overly superstitious about my stool cushion. It sounds funny, but it was one of those things I had to have in order to play well. Or so I thought. I tried not to stress and have a sense of humor about the ridiculousness of it all. I managed to play a decent enough prelim to advance to the finals later in the week. My wife (girlfriend at the time) overnighted my stool cushion, so it arrived in time for the finals. Superstitions are strange. I didn’t even end up using it.
Are there any specific operas you are looking forward to playing?
Yes! La Traviata was the first opera I ever saw performed. I’ll always have a soft spot for it.
What have you done outside of the bass in the past year during quarantine?
I have kept very busy this past year. I took advantage of time away from performing and honed in on my composition and music production skills. I teamed up with a producer in LA and we have been writing music remotely for television, video games, and commercials. It’s a process I have come to enjoy and hope to continue moving forward.
What hobbies and interests do you have outside of the bass?
It may sound funny, but I am an avid disc golfer. Some musicians showed me the sport a few years ago while we were performing at a festival in Oregon and I have been hooked ever since.
What quintessential Chicago experience(s) are you looking forward to doing most after the pandemic?
Going to a Cubs game!