Tommy Thompson, Bass

A fact normally obscured by his location in the bass section, Tommy is the Orchestra’s principal accordion player. He has played since he was five, and later studied with Eileen Hagen. Of note, Tommy was among the students Eileen took to New York City in 1962 to compete in the National Accordion Competition: they performed an arrangement of Scheherazade for 46 accordions which won first place. Tommy also had the honor on two occasions to accompany the great operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti.

His first experience with a double bass was in junior high, when he joined the orchestra to fulfill a music requirement. Though he has played bass from the age of 13, his first lesson wasn’t until he was 18, and amazingly he joined the Oregon Symphony the following year. He is grateful to Larry Zgonc, then Principal Bassist for the Oregon Symphony, for aiding in his quick progress, and to Herman Jobelmann, who later gave him on-the-job training.

Since he enjoys playing so many different styles of music, he never tires of any of them. Jazz, for example, is his lifeline to creativity and composition. He draws something from every performance. Music has many dialects from many cultures and societies, he says, and it only becomes difficult to enjoy when we don’t understand the language.

Tommy has four children, and he says, “ . . . [they] present a wonderful balance to my life and a true grounding of my ego.” He enjoys bicycling and hiking, as well as landscaping. Some of his work in this latter category can be found in the gardens of his colleagues, and at the Sands Resort in Ocean Shores, Washington, owned by bassist Bill Ofstad. His greatest influence, he says, albeit unavoidable, is [bassist] Richard Mansfield: mentor, friend, and my personal trainer.

For more about this musician, click here.

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