About Ben Roidl-Ward
Recently named one of 23 artists who are “changing the sound of classical music” by the Washington Post, bassoonist Ben Roidl-Ward will serve as the Assistant Professor of Bassoon at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign starting in Fall of 2023. He also holds positions as Principal Bassoonist of the Chicago Sinfonietta, Second Bassoonist of the Illinois Symphony, Solo Bassoonist of Ensemble Dal Niente, and Contemporary Leader of the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland. Ben’s dedication to working with and advocating for composers of his generation has led him to commission numerous works featuring the bassoon, and he has participated in the premieres of over 125 compositions to date.
In demand as a guest artist, Ben has performed with leading ensembles around the country, including the Chicago Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, the International Contemporary Ensemble, the Grossman Ensemble, and the Oregon, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Hawai’i, and Richmond Symphonies. In 2021, he performed as Guest Principal Bassoonist of the Arctic Philharmonic in Bodø, Norway. As a soloist, Ben has performed concertos by composers from Antonio Vivaldi to Sofia Gubaidulina with ensembles such as the Seattle Symphony, the Oberlin Contemporary Ensemble, and the Northwestern University Contemporary Ensemble, among others. He was the 3rd Prizewinner of the IDRS Young Artist Competition (2013), a finalist for the Gillet-Fox Competition (2020), and the recipient of a Luminarts Fellowship in Classical Music (2018). His festival appearances include the Mostly Mozart, Ravinia, Tanglewood, Lucerne, Donaueschingen, Spoleto, National Repertory Orchestra, and Banff Festivals.
Prior to his appointment at UIUC, Ben held teaching positions as Assistant Professor of Bassoon at the University of Northern Iowa, guest faculty member at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and Instructor of Bassoon at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI. He currently serves as a Mentor for the Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative, a program that prepares students from underrepresented backgrounds for admission to top music schools. Ben has presented masterclasses at Northwestern University, the Oberlin and Peabody Conservatories, SUNY Fredonia, and the State Universities of Arizona, Colorado, and Oklahoma. In his role at the Lucerne Festival, Ben co-curates the annual Forward! Festival, coaches bassoonists in the Lucerne Festival Academy, and performs throughout Europe with the Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra.
Last Fall, Ben released his debut solo album, Axis Mundi, which was featured on Bandcamp Daily’s “Best Contemporary Classical on Bandcamp: November 2022.” He is currently an Artist-in-Residence for the Bienen Institute for New Music at Northwestern University, and will premiere Moonhead, a project featuring original music and paintings created in collaboration with visual artist Ben Llewellyn, in late April.
Ben is a proud alum of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. He received his DMA from Northwestern University, where he studied with David McGill and researched methods of notating the bassoon’s multiphonics. His previous teachers include Ben Kamins at Rice University, George Sakakeeny at the Oberlin Conservatory, and Francine Peterson in the Seattle area.
I aim to help my students acquire the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to be successful musicians in whichever path they choose to pursue. Strong fundamentals on the instrument are essential, and I consistently focus on foundational pillars of bassoon playing with students of every level. These include fundamental exercises (scales, intervals, arpeggios, and long tones), etudes, phrasing, reedmaking, and performance/audition preparation. My goal is to give every student meaningful experience with standard repertoire in solo, chamber, and large ensemble music from the Baroque period to the present day while encouraging them to develop creative projects based on their individual musical interests. In this way, students are prepared to master any repertoire that they may encounter as professionals in the music world while developing their own voices and identities as unique musicians.