Meet Robert Ashley, Principal Bass

Interview by Lily O’Brien
Season Chair Sponsor: Nancy Thelen Rehkopf

Robert Ryan Ashley, the Principal Bassist with the Marin Symphony since 2009, is in demand. He commutes all over the Bay Area to perform with a number of orchestras, including the Silicon Valley Symphony, the Berkeley Symphony, and the Napa Valley Symphony. He also teaches bass at UC Santa Cruz. Originally enamored of jazz, after spending a couple of summers at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Massachusetts, Ashley decided to seriously pursue classical music instead.

Did you ever play any instrument besides double bass?

My very first instrument was piano when I was five, and then I started playing violin in 4th grade. In 5th grade they let you pick violin or cello, so I played cello in the school orchestra. But there was a kid who played electric bass, and I just thought that was the coolest thing in the world, so that summer I asked for an electric bass for my birthday and I got one. I started taking electric bass lessons and I absolutely loved it — I couldn’t put it down, and in seventh grade I was playing acoustic bass and electric bass in the school orchestra. It wasn’t until 10th grade that I started taking double bass lessons.

What was it about the bass that grabbed you?

I always liked low frequencies. If there were something bigger and lower, I probably would have picked that.
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