CCM Bassoon and Flute alums win orchestra positions at Minnesota Opera
Jessica Findley Yang & Hannah Peterson secure Principal positions with the Minnesota Opera Orchestra
UC College-Conservatory of Music celebrates the amazing successes of recent alumni, Jessica Findley Yang (MM Bassoon, ’16) and Hannah Peterson (BM Flute, ‘12), who both won principal positions with the Minnesota Opera Orchestra in the group’s most recent auditions. This Grammy-nominated, Pulitzer-Prize winning group is based in Minneapolis, and boasts an impressive playbill each season.
“I am so excited for this next chapter!” Yang said in an Instagram post announcing her new position. “I love playing opera music so, so much!”
Having most recently held the principal bassoon position in Colorado’s Central City Opera Orchestra, Yang spoke about the numerous opportunities she has had to play in opera pits throughout the years.
“I was fortunate to get to play in CCM’s production of Così fan tutte, [as well as] two different opera festivals as a student.” Yang boasts an impressive performance resume, including such works as Madama Butterfly, The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni. “My favorite opera pit experience was getting to play the famous bassoon solo in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore,” she says. “I played this opera at a small outdoor opera festival in northern Germany. I’ve been really fortunate to get so much opera experience as a young musician!”
Peterson also had the opportunity to perform over-seas when she attended CCM’s Spoleto Festival in Italy in the summer of 2011. “We played one of my all-time favorite pieces, Mahler 1, for an audience that included Mahler’s granddaughter!” she recalls.
In addition to her prolific performance career, Yang has also created an amazingly successful bassoon reed making business called Jiffy Reeds. “It was definitely an unplanned part of my career,” Yang says of becoming a reed maker. “When COVID shut everything down, my husband and I decided to change our 5-year plan and have a baby in 2021, and I decided to step down from all my playing positions to be a full-time parent.” After moving to Denver in 2022, Yang had the idea to start making reeds as a way to stay involved in the music industry that fit within her busy schedule as a new parent.
“I was shocked by how quickly business picked up. It’s a tiny niche (I sometimes feel silly explaining to non-musicians what I sell), but there was definitely an unmet need in the bassoon reed market. I had a wide network of bassoonists, professors and educators around the country who tried Jiffy Reeds and then recommended my shop to their students and colleagues. I sold over 1500 reeds last year.”
Yang says that she is grateful for her success as a reed maker, and the effects that it has had on her as a performer. “I’ve always got at least a couple great reeds in my case, and my reed-making skills have only gotten better with so much repetition!” Since starting Jiffy Reeds, Yang has won principal positions with the Central City Opera Orchestra, and now the Minnesota Opera Orchestra.
There will always be room for anyone in our field who is passionate, talented and persistent. Figure out what unique talents and skills you possess that make you stand out.
Yang looks back on her time at CCM as helping to push her into the professional world. “Having talented and driven classmates who had similar goals to mine was invaluable; we each held ourselves and our fellow [students] accountable, which made us all better musicians as a result,” Yang says. She also expresses gratitude for the mentorship she received in her private bassoon lessons, both with the late William Winstead and Martin Garcia.
“One of the ways in which CCM prepared me for the professional world is that it always provided opportunities to play in different settings on a regular basis,” Peterson says, “not only were there Wind and Orchestra concerts multiple times a semester, but I was able to play in opera pits, chamber music, new music premieres and solo recitals. If I wanted to put on a program, it was always possible to find a venue and willing collaborators.”
Peterson comments on the importance of collaboration, saying “I’ve found that I often get the best feedback and insight from talking to non-flute players. You can learn so much when you approach the same old problem from a new perspective. String players use their bow like we use air, so why not study their movements for ideas on how to phrase and ration breath? Brass players approach fundamentals in a way that gets often overlooked in the more virtuosic flute pedagogy, but how much cleaner could I play Mozart if I approached it with a renewed commitment to subdivision?”
“There will always be room for anyone in our field who is passionate, talented, and persistent,” Yang advises young musicians. “Figure out what unique talents and skills you possess that make you stand out.”
CCM Graduate Assistant, Marketing + Communications
Currently a Bassoon Performance master’s student at CCM, Chet received a Bachelor of Music from the University of Utah. He has held positions with the Salt Lake Symphony and the Utah Philharmonia.
Featured image at the top: Minnesota opera.