Evan Tsai ’21 Shares Double Bass Music with the World through International Performances

Evan Tsai ’21 will be performing in several different contries this summer, including China, Taiwan, and Japan.

Closing his eyes, Evan Tsai ’21 took a deep breath and lifted his bow to the strings of his double bass. With the first notes of Giovanni Bottesini’s “Passione Amorosa,” Tsai began the final piece of his performance at the National Concert Hall of Taiwan.

“[My proudest moment] was definitely performing in the Taiwan National Concert hall because I got to play for all of my family, friends, and hundreds of other people… It’s one of my goals to continue spreading the influence of the double bass through many different communities,” Tsai said.

Tsai began his classical music journey when he was five years old, starting on the cello. Ultimately, he decided to exclusively pursue the double bass, following in the footsteps of his mother, a professor of the double bass at Louisiana State University.

“I started playing [double] bass when I was 13, but I first started playing cello at the age of five. I switched from cello to bass because my mom also plays the double bass and she greatly influenced me throughout my childhood. I wanted to follow her path,” Tsai said.

Tsai says he feels that the double bass is a lesser known instrument, but he is hopeful that it will gain popularity in the future. 

“The double bass right now is like the status of the cello a hundred years ago. Not many people knew about it and not many people played it… But I believe in the future, the double bass repertoire will continue to grow and expand with contemporary composers and its influence will deepen and more people will hopefully learn and study it,” said Tsai.

Tsai enjoys introducing the double bass to those who may not be familiar with it.

“My favorite part [of playing] is to share my music with people who haven’t experienced [the double bass] before… I’m usually not nervous when I play in front of other people because I know I’m just sharing my music. It feels gratifying and I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to play for others,” Tsai said.

In addition to sharing double bass music with others, Tsai also views music as an integral part of his life. He says he believes that music is able to break barriers between people and help them bond.

“Music will always be a part of my life. Music is fun for me and I can practice music and sort of disappear into my own world away from anything else that happens. Bonding over music can bring people together, especially if someone’s having a hard time,” said Tsai.

According to Shira Wolpowitz ’21, a violist who has previously worked with Tsai in chamber music, playing in a quartet with a double bassist was both a new and enjoyable experience.

“At first when I heard that we were going to have a bass in our quartet, I was kind of skeptical of how well the bass would fit into a chamber setting, but then once we had Evan in our group, it was actually a really cool experience having a bass. The sound was more unique but in a good way, and also the sound of a bass is really resonant which I think really helped our sound,” said Wolpowitz.

Tsai currently serves as the principal bassist for the Academy Chamber Orchestra and also participates in the Academy Chamber Music Program. Off campus, he is a member of the Boston Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. Tsai plans to embark on a concert tour over the summer, performing in multiple venues across Asia.

“In the summer of 2019, I’ll be going on a concert tour with my mom and her pianist. We will be playing concerts in China, Taiwan, and possibly Japan,” Tsai said.

According to Evan Tsai ’21, participating in competitions with the double bass is challenging because not many people know much about the instrument.