Listening to double bassist Edgar Meyer talk about his illustrious career in music during a recent phone interview was not unlike having a relaxing conversation while sitting out on the porch on a cool, summer evening. The MacArthur “Genius” and Avery Fisher Career Grant awards recipient was humble and down to earth.
Presented by Tuesday Musical on April 20th at 7:30 PM, Meyer will be performing a concert of Bach’s first cello suite and some of his own solo works. The concert will be presented to a live, socially distanced audience at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron. A limited number of tickets are available for advance purchase — click here for details — and free student tickets in the balcony can be secured the evening of the performance. The box office will open at 6:30 pm.
Regarding the evening’s program, Meyer said “I can tell you very safely there will be the Bach and then primarily my original music after that.”
Meyer began learning Bach’s cello suites when he was 10 or 11 years old, and he has been composing from a young age as well. “Somewhere in the back of my mind I wanted to play the notes enough so that if I accidentally played something it might be those notes,” he said in regard to studying the suites. His work has been foundational for playing them on the double bass.
An avid instructor of double bass, Meyer has several strategies for learning Bach on the instrument. “Since the bass is a large and unwieldy instrument, I try to help students find ergonomic means to play the pieces.” He also advises learning the pieces slowly. “It’s the best way to get pitch right.” Meyer said he finds just as much enjoyment in playing a piece slowly as playing it up to tempo, if not more.
Meyer’s career has been somewhat unusual compared to other double bassists and musicians, especially during his rise to prominence. However, he wasn’t always sure about creating music as a source of income. “Music was so personal to me, that I wasn’t sure I wanted to subject it to the stresses of making a living.” Meyer told the story of his early job at Oak Ridge National Libraries, and how he thought the life of his boss, a statistician and amateur musician, seemed appealing. “Eventually I was doing music 24/7 and began to realize that if I was going to realize the goals I had, I would have to stay immersed in music.” Meyer said there was not a particular moment when he decided to pursue a career in music, but it was a more gradual process of performing and connecting with other artists.
Meyer has an extensive history of collaboration with other highly regarded musicians, beginning with mandolinist Sam Bush and banjoist Béla Fleck. About making connections, he said, “it’s something that happens over time and in a lot of different ways.” He recently finished recording his own string trios with violinist Tessa Lark and cellist Joshua Roman.
“The moral of the story is that you want to be in the room with the best players that you can. You want to play with people that play better than you and you want to learn how to make other people sound really great.” Meyer said that learning how your playing improves everyone’s sound is a much more effective way to work with others than being able to play the fastest run or the hottest solo.
When asked about the variety of his musical career, Meyer said “I don’t buy into this gigantic gulf between solo playing, orchestra playing and chamber playing, it’s all music.”