Nathaniel Mayne comes from Livermore, California and is currently a junior in music performance at San Diego State University. He is also the principal double bassist in the symphony orchestra.
Coming from a musical family, Mayne first picked up the bass when his music teacher in the school’s string orchestra program played recordings of each instrument. As a 12-year-old, he was naturally drawn to the “cool sound” and wanted to play the “giant instrument.”
However, the bass wasn’t his first encounter with music. Mayne first started with the violin in fourth grade, but switched to the double bass when he fell in love with its sound.
“There’s something about the resonance of the bass itself,” he said. “Just by playing one note, the whole instrument rings; the whole room rings.”
A teacher in Northern California whom he was taking private lessons from suggested SDSU for his education in music. Here, he was introduced to double bass professor Jeremy Kurtz-Harris.
As the principal bassist in the orchestra, Mayne finds that having a leadership role is more challenging than just being a section member. As a section member, “it’s a little more laid back and you’re more focused on just playing music. A section leader has to consciously make decisions with bowing or articulations, or with how you want the section to sound.”
Mayne finds that playing in an orchestra, despite the instrument, musicians have to focus on a lot of things at once, such as following the conductor and the rest of the sections. “The hardest part is that your brain is jumping to so many places with just one goal; to create a unified sound.”
He has picked up other instruments over the years but the bass had found a special place for him. “[In the orchestra, the bass] is the foundation. A lot is built on us and our job is really to keep everyone grounded and carry the music.”
His experience as a musician at SDSU has been great, Mayne said. He particularly appreciates the exposure to new ideas and new music and compositions.
“The symphony works constantly with student and faculty composers, so you get a feel for music that’s happening right now, not just ones that happened 100 years ago. In fact, not just right now but also here in San Diego.”
However, Mayne recently decided that as much as he loves playing music, he loves it more as a hobby than a career. He plans to pursue philosophy or theology in his graduate studies and eventually teach at a university.
The symphony is currently preparing for their performance of Leonard Bernstein’s symphonic dances from West Side Story and the last movement in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at Copley Symphony Hall on April 15. “It’s a crazy piece of music,” Mayne said. “It’s great but very challenging. We’ve been working on that alongside Mozart’s Requiem so I’m really looking forward to hearing everything come together.”
Mayne hopes to graduate in the Spring of next year.