Richard Svoboda, bassoon


The New England Conservatory of Music

I am on the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music, having joined this wonderful institution in 1990, a year after arriving in Boston as principal bassoonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In addition to my studio of private students, I also teach a couple of courses there and am the Woodwind Chair. I find teaching to be challenging and rewarding in ways that complement my life as a performer, and it has become part and parcel of what I do as a musician.

Prospective bassoon students often have a lot of questions about NEC and my studio in particular. You will find answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions below. If you need additional answers, or would like to set up a lesson, or if you simply would like to start a conversation, by all means please contact me at

A tremendous amount of information can also be found on the NEC website. To find out more about courses of study and the application and admission process, or to set up an NEC tour, please contact the Admissions Office.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How large is the bassoon studio at NEC? We aim to have about 13-14 bassoon students enrolled at NEC which we feel is an ideal number to populate NEC's equivalent of three orchestras, although we don't always hit that mark exactly. For the 2023-24 school year we have a total of 16 enrolled bassoonists.
  • Will there be any openings in the bassoon studio at NEC next year? We expect to have six bassoonists graduate in the spring of 2024, and we will likely look for four new students for the 2024-25 school year. In my studio I expect there to be two openings for the 2024-25 school year.
  • How is it determined who I will study with? There are three bassoon professors at NEC: in addition to myself, New York based bassoonist Marc Goldberg and BSO second bassoonist Suzanne Nelsen also maintain studios at NEC. If you know who you would most like to study with, you can request them when you fill out your on-line application, along with a second choice if you have one. If you have no preference, you should leave this part of the application blank. At the end of the audition process we will make studio assignments, taking into consideration all of the information that we have at that point, and will make every effort to place you with the teacher of your choice if that is possible.
  • Is there a reed room at NEC? Yes, there is a bustling reed room at NEC. It is stocked with a couple of profilers, a gouger and pre-gouger, a few shaper tips, and a dial indicator. It is a great place to learn from those more advanced than yourself and to share your own ideas about reed-making.
  • Will I learn to make reeds at NEC? All of the bassoon teachers at NEC help their students with reed-making, but you should arrive at NEC with the skills already in place to be a self-sufficient reed-maker.
  • What playing opportunities are there at NEC for bassoonists? NEC is all about playing and performing, so there is a wealth of playing opportunities there. There are the equivalent of three orchestras at NEC: the NEC Symphony which is generally populated by 1st and 2nd year students, and the NEC Philharmonia which is generally populated by 3rd and 4th year and grad students and which performs twice as frequently and is in essence two orchestras with overlapping rehearsals. There are also two wind ensembles at NEC which are just as likely to program chamber works as they are larger pieces. In addition to these ensembles, there is a conductor-less chamber orchestra as well as operas and choral/orchestral programs. One can (and should!) also sign up for Chamber Music as a course offering with weekly coachings, and students are also quite busy playing on each other's recitals as well as playing the occasional gig.
  • Is there a bassoon class at NEC? Yes, there is a bassoon class that meets for a couple of hours most weeks over the course of each semester. It is taught by all of the bassoon professors as well as occasional guest artists.
  • What is studying with you like? I like to strike a balance between etudes, solos, orchestral excerpts, and reeds, and so a typical lesson with me might include time spent on most, if not all, of these areas. Undergrads will have pretty clear expectations of what to work on from week to week. Grads will find their lessons to be somewhat less structured (depending on the student), as I find that the more advanced student, given some latitude, will tend to focus in on the areas of her/his playing that need the most work. Within this basic structure, I endeavor to identify weaknesses and flaws in my students' playing and to suggest strategies to overcome or correct these issues. I believe that one should play musically and in the correct style, and so will often spend a fair amount of time working on the finer points of musicianship.

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Photo of the 2023-24 NEC bassoon studio by Richard Svoboda.