11 Questions: Coltan Foster

interview by Brent Cole

While Bellingham is known for its indie pop (Death Cab for Cutie) and garage rock (Estrus/Mono Men), the current scene has a wide array of musicians and personalities, including folk, rock, metal, jazz, hip-hop, and classical. While the classical scene doesn’t get on our radar nearly enough, there are those working hard to bring music to fans. Among them is Coltan Foster, the coordinator of the Marrowstone Music Festival (which brings the Seattle Youth Symphony to Bellingham in July), the Principal Bassoonist for the Whatcom Symphony, a former member of Pan Pan, and all around incredibly cool guy. Take it away, Coltan!

Who are you? Tell us about yourself.
My name is Coltan Foster! I’m the Coordinator of the Marrowstone Music Festival, the youth orchestra camp on Western’s campus every summer. I received a BA in bassoon performance from WWU (class of ‘13). Besides coordinating the best youth orchestra camp in the PNW (#bragging) I am the principal bassoonist of the Whatcom Symphony, a freelance teacher and music coach, and an active jazz bassist/vocalist.

What was your first car? Can you tell us your favorite memory from it?
My first car was a Chevy Blazer. I had a brief fling with a Volkswagen Beetle recently, but that’s over now and the Blazer and I are back together. Notably, my mother decided to buy custom license plates for it that say “BLAZIN.” (#bragging)

How did you initially connect with the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra?
The Seattle Youth Symphony has been putting on Marrowstone at Western since 2000 (it started out on Marrowstone Island in 1943!)  My bassoon teacher at Western is also faculty at Marrowstone (and a dozen other places). She got me a work study position as counselor for the festival in 2009. Since then it’s been a part of my life every summer.

What is it about classical music that has drawn you in?
Initially is was the people in the classical music world that I was attracted to; their dedication, artistry, ability to give and receive criticism with grace, etc. It was this magical world where everyone thought the same way I did! Now I’m here because there is nothing that I can see myself doing that is as good for the world. Every note I play feels like I’m contributing something pure and beneficial to society. It goes beyond all the nonsense, greed, and thoughtlessness in the world, and aims to fill it instead with love, learning, and beauty.

Is there a song in your record collection or ipod that might surprise even your closest friends? What’s the story behind it?
I don’t think any of my friends would be surprised by my music taste because I talk too much about myself.

What is your all-time favorite meal?
Yellow curry, braised lamb, asparagus and beer! Not necessarily in that order. Also, someone else should make it, because I only know how to cook breakfast foods.

If you weren’t involved with classical music, what do you think would be your profession?
I would switch full time to jazz, my secret passion. Don’t tell Mozart!

Who is your all time favorite composer?
Maurice Ravel. Every time I hear Ravel I feel instantly at home.

It’s a quiet Sunday morning, what are you doing?
I’m eating breakfast. It probably tastes amazing. I’m only good at cooking breakfast.

If you could live in any country outside of the U.S., what would it be and why?
Realistically, Australia. I hear they have a dope bassoon scene! Fantastically, France, because that’s where it’s always been at musically.

What is your favorite film genre?
My girlfriend would say “anything weird.” I’m not offended by that, and I can’t deny it either.

In 10 years, what do you see yourself doing? How about 20?
I’d love to be doing what I’m doing now; a great mix of arts administration, music performance, teaching, etc. In 10 years I’ll hopefully be working, performing, and teaching at a higher level, and in 20 years a higher level still. One could say I just want to keep getting higher! But that could be misconstrued. Instead I’ll say that I hope to be as dedicated musically and present emotionally as possible.

Any last thoughts?
Marrowstone is some of the highest level music that happens in the PNW. The students range in age from 14 years old up to students getting their Master’s degrees from conservatories around the country. It’s an insane concert on Sundays (Aug. 3 and 10) with two full orchestras playing stunning repertoire. Check out Stravinsky’s Petrushka; we’re doing that! On the Thursdays (July 31 and Aug. 7) we have a Faculty Chamber Concert, where the Faculty (who are also some of the best teachers and players in the country) perform works they’ve chosen with the music director. Conservative listeners would call this program “adventurous.” I call it an accurate representation of the musical sensibilities of the modern classical musician. Come say hi and check it out! For more info send me an email at marrowstone@syso.org.Much love, peace out!