This month, we are pleased to welcome two new musicians to the orchestra: Isaac Schultz, associate principal bassoon and Amy Semes, associate principal second violin. Get to know these remarkable musicians as they share their stories.
Isaac Schultz earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, where he studied with Benjamin Kamins. As a chamber musician, Isaac was a medalist at the 2015 Fischoff International Chamber Music Competition and a finalist at the Coleman Competition. He has appeared in performances with the Pacifica Quartet, John Kimura Parker, and Jorja Fleezanis. He has been a fellow at the Aspen Music Festival, the Music Academy of the West, and the Festival Institute at Round Top. A New Hampshire native, Isaac is a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy and loves fitness and the outdoors.
You were a contracted substitute before joining the orchestra. How does it feel to be officially part of the team?
When I first started playing occasional concerts with the Houston Symphony, I hardly dared to hope that I might play with the orchestra as a contracted substitute, and as a substitute I hardly dared to hope that I might be able to join the group permanently! I have learned so much from all of my colleagues, made lasting friendships within the orchestra, and have grown to love the city of Houston. I cannot wait to make new memories as I continue my journey with the Symphony!
What are the main responsibilities of the associate principal position in your section?
As associate principal I play first bassoon on certain pieces, usually on the first half of a concert. I also play other bassoon parts, such as third bassoon on pieces that require a four-bassoon section, such as Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique or Mahler’s Ninth Symphony.
How did you choose your instrument?
My parents play flute and oboe respectively and teach at Kinhaven, a music camp for high school students in Vermont. Growing up, I would spend the summers with them at Kinhaven and had the chance to experience many instruments. From a very early age, I was drawn to low sounds and was fascinated by the bassoon especially. As an oboist, my mother spends much of her time making her own reeds, and when I was little, she would let me pretend to help her operate a gouger, an oboe reed-making machine. In retrospect, I was doing more pretending than helping, but I was enthralled by the mechanism of the device; the tactile nature of bassoon reed-making has appealed to me ever since.
What hobbies and other activities do you enjoy?
While in high school, I attended the Mountain School, a semester program on an organic farm in Vermont, and aside from playing with the Houston Symphony that was the best time of my life. I have been passionate about the outdoors ever since. During my freshman year of college, I hiked alone for 31 days on the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Vermont. It was among my most wild, profound, and beautiful experiences. I have now hiked 800 miles of the Appalachian Trail, through-hiked Vermont’s Long Trail, and completed New Hampshire’s 48 peaks over 4,000 feet. I also yoyo and make yoyo videos, one of which was on the Symphony’s Instagram recently! I am a former powerlifter, but now I spend time rock climbing and running.