19-Year Old Double Bass Virtuoso Joins GR Symphony For Romantic Music Of 19th Century
A double bass, which plays the lowest notes of a string orchestra, stands more than 6 feet tall. William McGregor began playing double bass when he was only 2 years old.
Of course, the youngster originally from Ann Arbor didn't start with a double bass that you see played by the professional musicians of the Grand Rapids Symphony. But while nearly every other toddler who plays a stringed instrument begins with a violin, McGregor did not.
A family friend who played double bass professionally was interested in starting a youngster on the instrument, so he took a cello, which is half the height of a double bass, and set it up to match the strings of a double bass, albeit tuned one-octave higher.
That's how McGregor began studying music. Eventually, he grew into a full-size instrument, and the winner of the 2017 Stulberg International String Competition in Kalamazoo will appear with the Grand Rapids Symphony on Feb. 22 as soloist.
The 18-year-old musician, who began studies last fall as a freshman at Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, will be soloist in Giovanni Bottesini's Concerto for Double Bass No. 2 in B minor.
Music Director Marcelo Lehninger will lead the orchestra in 19th century Italian music for The Romantic Concert: Bella Italia! at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, in St. Cecilia Music Center, 24 Ransom Ave. NW.
The PwC Great Eras series concert also will feature Gioachino Rossini's overture to L'Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers) and Felix Mendelssohn's "Italian" Symphony No. 4.
Highlights of the evening concert will be given at 10 a.m. that morning as The Romantic Coffee Concert, part of the Porter Hills Coffee Classic series, a one-hour program held without intermission in St. Cecilia's Royce Auditorium. Doors open at 9 a.m. for complementary coffee and pastry.
McGregor begin his double bass studies at age 2 in Ann Arbor with Derek Weller. In 2009, he was accepted into The Juilliard School Pre-College program where he studied for nine years with Albert Laszlo. He has since emerged as one of the rising young stars of the double bass.
McGregor has performed in Master Classes with such eminent double bass players as Edgar Meyer. In 2011, he became a Fellowship scholarship student at the Aspen Music Festival and School. Not only was he the youngest full-time student there, he was selected to perform a Spotlight Recital at Aspen and also performed with the Aspen Concert Orchestra. The following summer, McGregor returned to Aspen where he performed with Philharmonic Orchestra and was selected to perform at String Showcase Recital.
McGregor won the grand prize at the Ensemble 212 Young Artist Competition in 2012 and performed a solo concerto with Ensemble 212 at The Kaufman Center's Merkin Concert Hall in New York City. In November, he made his Carnegie Hall debut, with Paganini's Mose in Egitto.
In October, 2013, McGregor was the First Prize Winner in the Salome Chamber Orchestra Young Artist Competition in New York City where he also received the Most Promising Young Artist Award. He returned in February 2014 to perform as soloist with the Salome Chamber Orchestra in Carnegie Hall.
In 2015, McGregor was invited to solo with the Allentown Symphony under conductor Diane Wittry.
In May 2017, McGregor won the Gold Medal at the Stulberg International String Competition, an international competition promoting excellence in stringed instrument performance by young artists under age 20. He became only the second bass player in 42 years to win the competition, and he performed as soloist with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra in October 2017.
In January, 2018, he was named a National YoungArts Finalist and attended National YoungArts Week in Miami. In May, he was named one of just 20 U. S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts and performed at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
William's hobbies are all sports, especially Detroit and University of Michigan teams, and collecting and selling baseball cards.
The complete The Romantic Concert: Bella Italia! program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, April 28, 2019, at 1 p.m. on Blue Lake Public Radio 88.9 FM or 90.3 FM.
Tickets start at $26 for the Great Eras series and $16 for Coffee Classics and are available at the Grand Rapids Symphony box office, weekdays 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 100, (located across the street from Calder Plaza). Call (616) 454-9451 x 4 to order by phone. (Phone orders will be charged a $2 per ticket service fee, with a $12 maximum).
Tickets are available at the DeVos Place ticket office, weekdays 10 am - 6 pm or on the day of the concert at the venue beginning two hours before the performance. Tickets also may be purchased online at GRSymphony.org.