Kirby Nunez, Principal Double Bass

Question & Answer

How did you choose your instrument?
Kirby Nunez

Kirby receives a solo bow after a performance of Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in June 2015.

I often get this question from people who are wondering about the size of the bass. It’s usually followed by the question “Don’t you wish you played the flute?”
(No, I don’t).

Most of us started playing our instruments when we were very young.  Because of this, you’re not really asking an adult…you’re asking a child for his/her reasons.  I probably chose this instrument because it was the biggest and lowest sounding…cool things to a kid…although, I still think it’s cool.

Also, the fact that my father was my school orchestra director and needed a bass player might have had something to do with it.

What is your biggest hurdle faced as a musician?

Despite my smug response to the previous question, that would probably be traveling long distances. When I was a boy choosing the bass because it was “cool”, I didn’t really foresee the day that I would need to transport it to and from an island in the Pacific. I’m still not switching to flute.

Who were your major teachers?

Dr. Edward Rainbow, Eugene Levinson and Tom Lederer. A significant amount of coaching was also had with Jeff Bradetich, Paul Ellison, Stuart Sankey and Ralph Jones.

What was the first piece of music you fell in love with?

My parents had a recording of the Pittsburgh Symphony playing Brahms 2nd Symphony that I was really taken with.  I still get a charge out of the opening to that symphony.

What was your earliest musical memory?

My father was a terrific pianist, and I remember him at his baby grand piano from my earliest days.

What are your professional goals?

At this point, I think it would be to provide and have the best musical experience possible. Improvement is a never-ending quest in this business.

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Kirby Nunez is the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra’s principal bassist, and has been with the orchestra since 1989.

He is also a member of the Colorado Music Festival, and has returned to Boulder, Colorado every summer since 1992. He is currently assistant principal bassist, and has also performed several summers as acting principal.

Originally from Denton, Texas, Mr. Nunez has a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of North Texas, and continued his education as a student of Eugene Levinson at the Peabody Conservatory. Valuable experience was also gained during this time by serving first as a per-service section member of the Fort Worth Symphony, and then as the principal bassist of the Annapolis Symphony.

During those student years, he was a fellowship recipient to the Aspen Music Festival for three summers. This was followed by two summers with The National Repertory Orchestra, advancing to the principal position for the second season. Those years also brought the opportunity to appear as a featured soloist with The University of North Texas Symphony, Fort Worth Civic Orchestra, Irving Symphony and the Chautauqua Festival Orchestra.

The inaugural season of the New World Symphony took Nunez to Miami Beach as a member of its first bass section, and an audition in New York the following year landed a section job with the Honolulu Symphony. Another audition six years later placed him as the principal bassist, and he continues to hold that position with the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra.