Libertyville musician busks for charity with 'Bassoons Filling Bellies'
You may have seen street musicians playing, instrument cases open for donations, in a practice called busking.
But it's unlikely you've seen someone playing the bassoon for coins or bills. Or for that matter, know what a bassoon is or what it sounds like.
For the record, it's a double reed woodwind instrument usually measuring about 4½-feet long and traditionally played in orchestral or band settings.
"It's unique. A bit mysterious and a bit unusual," said Libertyville resident Harriet Legan, who switched to the bassoon from saxophone during her sophomore year of high school.
Now, for Legan and six fellow students from Ball State University, the bassoon has become a way to feed the hungry during the coronavirus pandemic.
Bassoons Filling Bellies is the name of their group and their cause, said Legan, who graduated this year with bachelor's degrees in speech pathology and French while minoring in bassoon performance.
"We're virtually busking for Feeding America," she added. "We're just performing music and hope they (online audience) throw coins in our tip jar."
After being sent home to finish college online, Legan and fellow members of Ball State's Bassoon Studio who were scattered across the country looked for a way to benefit others.
With job loss in the wake of COVID-19 and food banks struggling to keep pace, the musicians determined that addressing food insecurity was a significant and immediate need.
"We decided to try and support that cause. We thought, 'What skills do we have to help others?'" she said.
They chose Feeding America, which provides 10 meals for every $1 donated, as offering a good bang for the virtual buck, according to Legan.
To compile their Bassoons Filling Bellies performances, individual musicians send audio and video of their parts to a member of the group, who assembles them into one piece for posting online. The posts are 90 seconds to three minutes in length.
"They're not super long. Just enough to send people a smile," Legan said.
Seventeen pieces have been published since the group's YouTube debut on May 28, the most recent Monday. If listeners like what they hear, they can follow the link to Feeding America and donate. As of Friday, the group had raised enough to provide 13,800 meals, Legan said.
So why bassoon? Legan said she played saxophone through freshman year at Libertyville High School but was asked to switch after an opening surfaced.
"I gave it a try and loved it," Legan said. "It sounds dark, warm, mellow. It's easier to listen to than describe."
There may not be a Bassoon World Tour, but the instrument has had its moments.
In Sergei Prokofiev's 1936 composition "Peter and the Wolf," the grandfather character is represented by a bassoon. The "Sorcerer's Apprentice" composed by Paul Dukas in 1897 features the bassoon and was used in Disney's "Fantasia."
Her mother, Anne, was skeptical about the instrument switch at first.
"I thought, 'Are you sure you want to play that?' " she said. "She liked it and that was that, really."