Innocents Abroad

I try not to ask myself how I got here too often; I’m too busy scrambling to learn the next program to get bogged down with the deep stuff. But I have to admit I kind of feel like it was an accident. I started on electric bass, trickled down to upright to play more jazz, ended up going to Juilliard for a classical degree. Hated it, save for my teacher, who was wonderful, and transfered to Boston University. In my last year at B.U., I remember kicking myself into gear for concerto competitions, chamber music and recitals. It was around then that a roomate of mine noticed a posting on ….”DUDE!” he said, “Northern Sinfonia, a CHAMBER ORCHESTRA in the NORTH OF ENGLAND!!! what does that do, does it BLOW YOUR MIND???!!!”….

And it did. I was intrigued by a job in a chamber orchestra, having never thought of myself as much of a big orchestra type, and living outside the US sounded cool too. On a whim, I applied. The audition process is, of course, much different in England. I was expecting a massive day of auditions, with people lined up and waiting for turns with accompanists and warm up rooms…But that’s not exactly how things happen over here. The orchestra fit me in for an audition when they could, as they did with all the applicants. The panel, which consisted of a quartet of the string principals, seemed thrilled with my audition, and with the final round of chamber music. I was offered a trial, which was a foreign concept for me, being used to the American system of jobs being offered on the day of the audition. Over the next four or five months, I commuted back and forth, doing chamber music gigs in Boston and patches of trial work with Northern Sinfonia in England.

I loved the orchestra, and it seemed a good fit, so I was offered the job in December, having auditioned at the end of August. I started officially in January, and I think I started officially one more time in April, as there were some work-permit type difficulties that eventually got ironed out. I’m happy here for now, fantastic people, beautiful, intimate music-making and lots of chamber music, early music, and new music–all in a fantastic new music centre complete with a gorgeous hall. Challenging repertoire with just one or two basses is stressful but worth it. I even got to pick my No. 2, and having a fantastic stand partner has made everything easier. Whether or not I’ll return to my home country (I still go back every now and again for chamber music gigs and to see family) remains to be seen, or whether I’ll explore Europe a bit more. But for now, I’m just learning all I can, and building a life in Newcastle upon Tyne.

About the author

Max Zeugner
Max Zeugner

Max Zeugner was a scholarship student of Orin O'Brien at The Juilliard School and Edwin Barker at Boston University's College of Fine Arts, where he won the 2005 concerto competition. Runner up at the 2001 Boston Symphony Orchestra Young Artists Competition, Max's previous teachers include Richard Hartshorne, Joe D'Angelo, Deborah Dunham, Vince Wilfork and Hank Poteat.

As a chamber musician, Max has performed throughout the United States and in Israel and South America. He has performed and recorded with the Apple Hill Chamber Players and the members of Quartet X, and has twice been a guest artist with the Boston Chamber Music Society. He has also performed on Bank of America's Celebrity Series at Boston's Jordan Hall with pianist David Deveau, and at the Elbereth Chamber Series in New York City, where he gave a performance of Mozart's "Per Questa Bella Mano" with bass-baritone Daniel Gross.

As a nonclassical artist, Max was formerly double bassist and electric bassist with the Eastern Jazz Project, the Charles Ketter Quartet and the Delfino Brothers Duo, and has collaborated with Tully Banta-Cain and renowned electronic music artist Kelley Polar.

He was recently appointed Principal Double Bassist with Northern Sinfonia, and currently resides in Gateshead.

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