UMSL bassoonist performs with St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra

Joseph Hendricks, a junior majoring in music at UMSL

Joseph Hendricks, a junior majoring in music at UMSL, will play bassoon with the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra throughout the 2012-13 season. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Joseph Hendricks first saw the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra perform when he was a senior in high school. The connection was instant: “Oh, I should do this,” he thought.

So he prepared and went in for an audition. He didn’t make the cut. But he stuck with it, and a second audition a year later proved successful. Hendricks has played the bassoon for the youth orchestra throughout the 2012-13 season. Performances are held at Powell Symphony Hall, home to the St. Louis Symphony and one of the most renowned concert halls in the United States.

“Obviously, not everyone is into the world of classical music, but to us they’re like celebrities,” he says of working with members of the St. Louis Symphony. “It’s a really, really cool experience.”

The youth orchestra comprises about 100 musicians ranging in age from 12 to 22. Participants experience what it’s like to work in a professional orchestra, and performances are free and open to the public.

Hendricks, of East St. Louis, Ill., is a junior majoring in music at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. He started his musical journey when he took up the saxophone in middle school. In high school, he made an unplanned move to bassoon.

“I started it completely by chance,” Hendricks says. “I had never heard of it until my friend found out about the oboe and the bassoon. He wanted to do the oboe, and I figured, ‘Hey, if I do the other one, we’ll have a complete set.’

“I loved it, and I stuck with it.”

Hendricks says he knew mastering an uncommon instrument would help him attract college scholarships. Each of the past two years, he’s earned the symphony’s IN UNISON scholarship. The program funds music scholarships for minority students pursuing bachelor’s degrees in music or music education.

At UMSL, Hendricks performs with the University Wind Ensemble and University Orchestra.

After he graduates, he says he’s eyeing a career in veterinary medicine and he’s wanted to be a vet since he was a kid. In addition to music courses, he’s taking the science classes he needs to pass the exam that’s required to get into vet school.

And when not in class, studying, practicing or performing, Hendricks works the front desk at Oak Hall, the university’s newest residential living space, and as an usher at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center. He’s also excelling as a student in the Pierre Laclede Honors College, where he’s on the dean’s list. Robert Bliss, dean of the college, has high praise for Hendricks.

“If I had more students like him I might never retire,” Bliss says.

As for what the future holds for Hendricks’ music career, he makes one thing clear: His bassoon won’t be relegated to the back of a closet. Even if he goes to vet school, he plans to play the instrument, whether in a university ensemble or community orchestra. One day, he says, he’d like to join a professional orchestra, like the St. Louis Symphony.


This story was originally published in the spring 2013 issue of UMSL Magazine.

Media coverage:
St. Louis Beacon
St. Louis American


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