Meet a Musician: Fei Xie

Meet a Musician: Fei Xie

Minnesota Orchestra member since: September 2017
Position/section: Principal Bassoon
Tang Shan, China
M.M., Rice University, B.M., Oberlin College

What is currently on your music stand?
On my stand, I always have the music for the next 2 to 3 weeks of orchestra programs, plus some etudes and French solo bassoon pieces. 

Do you come from a musical family?
Yes, my parents are both Peking Opera musicians, and my uncle is a composer who introduced me to classical music at the age of three.

How did you choose to play the bassoon?
The bassoon kind of chose me. I started playing piano when I was three years old, and I studied it until I was 12 years old. When I finished elementary school, I wanted to audition for the middle school attached to the Central Conservatory of Music, one of the best music schools in China. After taking a lesson with one of the professors, she told me that I would not be accepted that year as a pianist, but that I should try to audition for the wind department if I really wanted to get into the school. The wind department would sometimes accept students who had musical talent but hadn’t learned to play any particular wind instrument yet. I went to the audition and one very nice lady asked if I would consider learning the bassoon. I had no idea what the bassoon was at that time. It wasn't until the next day, when I brought my parents to meet the professor, that I first saw and heard the bassoon, and I fell in love with its beautiful sound! Now I am here!  

Fei Xie with bassoonist J. Christopher Marshall onstage at Orchestra Hall

Where did you play before coming to Minnesota?

I always knew that I wanted to play in an orchestra, so I started taking orchestral auditions when I was in college. My very first job was as the principal bassoon of Mansfield Symphony in Ohio, while I was a junior at Oberlin. My second job was as the second bassoon of the Houston Grand Opera. I won that position while I was a graduate student at Rice University. One year after I graduated from Rice University, I won the second bassoon job in Baltimore Symphony, and later won the principal bassoon audition there. After serving 5 years as principal bassoon in Baltimore, I joined the Minnesota Orchestra.

Which moment in the bassoon’s orchestral repertoire is your favorite?
I love them all! The bassoon doesn't get as many solos as the other woodwind instruments, so I love it anytime one is written for bassoon. I really have an interest in story-telling, so if I had to pick one, I’d choose the solo from Scheherazade by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

Principal Oboe John Snow and Principal Bassoon Fei Xie (both at center) after a masterclass with students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, January 2018

What Minnesotan activity are you excited to try for the first time?

Since I am new to Minnesota, I am trying my best to adapt to the weather. One of the things I have never done but am looking forward to is skiing. I just signed my son up for ski lessons, and I hope I will also become a skier soon.

What would you recommend to audience members here?
Come to as many concerts as you would like. The Minnesota Orchestra really puts on variety of music. You can find so many different genres of music in the concert hall.

Fei Xie with a student at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, January 2018

What upcoming performances are you looking forward to?

I am really looking forward to the Mahler symphonies we are playing and recording this season. I am also looking forward to the collaboration with Pink Martini. I love that group. 

What do you like to do when you aren’t performing? 
I love to cook, particularly authentic home-style Chinese food. I think cooking is so much like making music. Everyone can look at the same notes, but you play it differently. With cooking, everyone is working with the same ingredients and yet the food always comes out a little bit different. I like to apply things I learn while cooking to music-making, and vice versa. I probably would have become a chef or had a cooking show if I wasn’t a musician. 

Click here to read more about Fei Xie. 

Emma Plehal