Meet the members of our orchestra with our Profiles from the Pit series! This month, learn about our bassists Clark Suttle and Derek Weller!
Being of French heritage, it is fitting that Clark Suttle’s bass is named “Marie Antoinette.” It is even more so since the instrument was made in France in 1865 and had its head cut off. Though the bass was refurbished in 1970, Clark jokes he has planned to sell it on off for the past few decades when it gets temperamental.
“But right before I go to sell it, it starts playing beautifully again,” he said. “I’ve played it so long, it is seasoned to me.”
The bass was a gift from his parents when he was 16 years old, a few years after he had begun playing the instrument and the onset of a path as a professional musician. Originally from Livonia, Clark continued his studies in Michigan, earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music within the scope of five years at the University of Michigan.
Though he is a bassist, Clark began his career as a conductor. He was associate conductor of Phoenix Symphony and Music Director and Conductor for Monterey Symphony for 13 years and was recently conductor for Rochester Symphony in Michigan. He also held directing and conducting positions at the University of Michigan, Richmond Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic and Phoenix Ballet.
“The path of a musician is often a varied one, and we do many things in our careers,” he said. “I returned to Michigan for family reasons and was asked to be a substitute bass for MOT in 2000. I took the audition in 2001, and the rest is history.”
In addition to performing, Clark also works as a music editor for Luck’s Music Library in Madison Heights, where he prepares all new editions for Luck’s and Tempo press. Outside of music Clark enjoys tall ships and models, history, road biking and composing music.
Michigan Opera Theatre bassist Derek Weller has been playing with the MOT Orchestra for 32 two years, serving as principal for 31 of them. But his history as a musician began much earlier.
Derek was introduced to music singing in the boys choir at his church, eventually learning the piano and beginning bass lessons in fifth grade. As his musical training progressed, Derek began spending summers at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, eventually transferring full-time to graduate high school from the Interlochen Arts Academy.
Decades later, Derek now teaches bass at the school, in addition to being a professor of bass at Eastern Michigan University and giving private lessons at this studio in Ann Arbor.
But performing remains a passion for Derek. He frequently performs with the Detroit Symphony as a substitute and has gone on several tours with them. He is also the associate principal of the Carmel Bach Festival, a period ensemble based in Carmel, California. He says he typically plays on the outside edge of the orchestra pit on a stool.
“It allows me to have an excellent view of the stage,” he said. “I enjoy being close to world class artists on stage and this has shaped my musical life.”
Outside of music, Derek enjoys cooking, fine dining, tea from China, Taiwan, and Japan, biking, running, cross-country skiing, swimming, yoga and bird watching. He recently celebrated his 25th wedding anniversary with MOT violinist Anna Weller.”
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