By Zachary C. Person
When asked what makes Oregon State University special for music teachers and their students, Ann Kosanovic-Brown, instructor of bassoon, quickly mentions the unique opportunity that OSU students have to not only learn from their instructors, but to perform with them. “I had to go to Berlin to have that kind of experience, to perform with my teacher and other professionals,” says Kosanovic-Brown, who performs as principal bassoon in the Corvallis-OSU Symphony Orchestra in addition to her studio teaching duties at OSU.
As soon as her students arrive on campus, Kosanovic-Brown helps them shape their goals and consider their post-graduation path. Whether those goals include performing professionally, becoming a music instructor or cultivating a love for music that will carry beyond their college years in the face of another career, her intention is to engage her students in deep thought about how music can play an important and lasting role in their lives.
Arriving in Oregon by way of Berlin, Germany; Salzburg, Austria; and Durban, South Africa; the Seattle-area native has lead a life filled with adventure, experience and - most of all - music. Kosanovic-Brown says music has given her the opportunity to see and experience the world in an enriched way, and the context that musical experiences can give us for greater cultural references is something that she encourages her students to consider. For instance, the massive symphonies of Anton Bruckner - who is one of her favorite composers - were at first difficult to fully enjoy. She says that at first she “didn’t get it [his music].” But after listening to one of his symphonies at a location in the alps and experiencing first hand the actual environment the composer had surrounded himself with when writing, the rich connection between his music and his personal life experiences became immediately clear.
Kosanovic-Brown was the first female bassoonist to perform with the famed Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. She fondly recalls the day that Gunter Piesk (her teacher and principal bassoon of the BPO) called to ask if she “might like to do some comfortable playing with the orchestra?” She had just arrived back in Berlin after a flight from the United States to Amsterdam, followed by a 10-hour train ride. Rushing off by taxi to the Philharmonie (the concert hall home of the orchestra) she sat down to see conductor Herbert von Karajan look at her, give a slight smile, and immediately launch the ensemble into Gustav Mahler’s “tragic” Sixth Symphony.
Following her time in Germany, where she was a student at the famed Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Academy, Kosanovic-Brown moved to Durban, South Africa to join the Natal Philharmonic as principal bassoon and serve on the faculty at the University of Natal. Eventually relocating back to the Pacific Northwest, she has performed as as a member of the Oregon Symphony and is a regular with the Seattle Symphony and the Eugene Symphony. Other notable performance credits include concerts with the Deutsche Oper in Berlin; Seattle Opera; Salzburg’s Mozarteum Orchestra; The Honolulu Symphony; and the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra.
As a soloist, Kosanovic-Brown’s highlights include a performance of Mozart Bassoon Concerto under the invitation and baton of Franz Welser-Most in Bavaria and appearances with: the Natal Philharmonic, Philharmonia Northwest, Capella Salisburgenis in Salzburg and Vienna Austria, Roundtop Festival Orchestra, Rainier Symphony and the Corvallis-OSU Symphony.
You may have been lucky enough to hear Ann’s solo work in February, 2017, with the OSU Wind Ensemble under the direction of Dr. Chris Chapman in a performance of Carl Maria von Weber’s “Andante and Hungarian Rondo” at The LaSells Stewart Center.