Alumnus Keith Buncke Joins Atlanta Symphony at 20 Years Old

Crescendo issue: April 2014
Most premiere orchestra members spend years building their careers to earn the orchestral placement that signals the epitome of musical performance.

And, even when that placement comes, they must then work their way up through the ranks of their premiere orchestral body.

Not so for Arts Academy alumnus Keith Buncke. This past February, the junior at the Curtis Institute of Music was awarded the principal bassoonist chair with the Atlanta Symphony. And he did this at 20 years old.

"I was lucky to have really good teachers early on in my bassoon studies," says Keith. "I got serious about the bassoon and music pretty early on, from the beginning of high school. I had a very specific focus in mind from an early age."

"It was such a warm and welcoming environment to go into," Keith says of his first few days on the job. "I couldn't have imagined an easier workplace to enter as 'the new guy.' Everyone was really nice and seemed to deeply love their job and colleagues. It's been a profoundly positive and awe-inspiring experience playing with them. I played two concert subscription weeks with the orchestra as the trial period for the position, and during my time there I felt incredibly inspired by the other musicians and that I really had to step up to the plate. At the same time, I think it was inspiring for the orchestra members to see and work with a fresh young face with a different perspective. There's this wonderful give and take, where you are inspired by your colleagues and hopefully you inspire some too."

This journey to the top took Keith through the Interlochen campus, a time that he says will remain with him throughout his playing days.

"Working with Dr. Eric Stomberg was undoubtedly the most important aspect of my time at Interlochen in terms of preparing me for this position," Keith says. "He helped me develop so much in just two years, both musically and technically. I learned a lot about orchestral playing from experience in the Interlochen orchestra and receiving guidance from Octavio Mas-Arocas and Dr. Stomberg."

"Getting to play principal, week after week, on great repertoire will be such a wonderful and challenging experience," Keith said. "I am also looking forward to starting a real life in the real world! I'm really looking forward to that independence."