Kristen Sonneborn, principal bassoon, was assistant principal bassoon with both the San Antonio and Florida symphony orchestras prior to joining the Naples Philharmonic. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree in performance from Saint Olaf College, where her teacher was Charles Ullery of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. She earned her Master of Muisc degree in performance from the University of Southern California, where she studied with renowned bassoonist and teacher Norman Herzberg. While in Los Angeles, Kristen was an active freelance musician in area orchestras and studios, playing for various composers, including Lalo Schifrin, Henry Mancini and John Williams.
In 1990 and 1991, Kristen was a fellowship recipient to the Tanglewood Music Center, where she performed under Seiji Ozawa and Leonard Bernstein. She has also performed under the batons of Neeme Järvi; Hans Graf, Eiji Oue; Leonard Slatkin; Donald Runnicles, and André Previn As a soloist she has performed concerti by Hummel; Hindemith; Lars-Erik Larsson; Mozart; Vanhal; and Vivaldi. In 1986, Kristen performed Weber’s Andante and Hungarian Rondo live on Austrian National Radio from Salzburg.
Kristen is currently on the faculty of the Bower School of Music & the Arts at Florida Gulf Coast University. She may be heard with the San Antonio Symphony on the Warner Bros. label, with the Naples Philharmonic on Telarc, with the Hot Springs Music Festival on the Naxos label, and most recently with Detroit Symphony principal bassoonist Robert Williams on his CD featuring the music of Julius Weissenborn. This July marks her 25th season as a member of the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra in Jackson, Wyoming.
Kristen served on the executive board of the International Double Reed Society from 2010-14. She has been a member of the Naples Philharmonic since 1995.
Kristen Sonneborn is underwritten by John & Joanne Fisher.
Name: Kristen Sonneborn
Hometown: Northfield, MN
At what age did you begin playing your instrument? I have been playing piano since the age of 3. I played flute for one year in elementary school, then switched to the bassoon when I was 11.
Who have been your greatest musical influences? My junior high band director Beverly Volkman, who was also a bassoonist, gave me long lessons at the end of the day and then would drive me home; my college band director Miles "Mity" Johnson taught me about the pure joy of music and the pursuit of perfection; my two main teachers Charles Ullery and Norman Herzberg – without them, I wouldn't be the bassoonist I am today; and my mother, who came to every concert I played growing up and taught me to appreciate all music: from small-town community band concerts, to Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the St. Olaf Choir.
Who are your favorite composers? Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Mozart, Mahler, Bernstein, Ravel, John Williams and the Beatles.
What career path would you have taken had you not chosen music? Until my freshman year of college, I thought about being a veterinarian. Then I got on the "music train" and couldn't stop!
What's currently playing on your iPod or CD player? Music I might be preparing for work or festivals. Every once in a while, I listen to bassoon music played by friends or Milan Turkovic for inspiration. I also love Ella Fitzgerald, U2, Pink Martini and the Rebirth Brass Band.
Your hobbies and interests: Keeping up with my young son Zach, Iyengar yoga, gardening, hiking, baking, watching USC football ("Fight on!") and movies.
Some little-known, yet interesting facts about you: I was co-captain of my high school volleyball team. My two older sisters also play bassoon. I once played a performance of The Messiah in Beverly Hills with actor Jimmy Stewart narrating from the Bible. I have played on a recording with a heavy-metal band. Wherever I am, people ask me directions – including in foreign countries. My husband Matt proposed to me in Fort Myers during a Minnesota Twins spring training game.
Funniest concert moment: I was playing with the NPO woodwind quintet at a league luncheon in the ballroom of a fancy hotel. I felt something wriggling up my leg under the skirt of my dress. It turned out to be some type of lizard, and it had changed black to match the color of my stockings. I trapped it in my hand and tossed it behind the stage with a thud. I don't think anyone noticed at the time. Hopefully, it didn't end up in someone's lunch!
Daily practice rituals: Scales, intervals, etudes, get through the music for the coming week, make or adjust my reeds – I go through 2-3 reeds per week.
The question you're asked most often about your instrument (and your answer): "What's a bassoon?" (It's the lowest member of the woodwind family.) or "Is that an oboe?" (Nope.)
Your favorite part about playing in the Naples Philharmonic: I don't have to live in a major urban area to make world-class music, and my colleagues are like family.