The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra invites audiences to get to know the members of the orchestra more closely with its new video series, “BPO Musician Profiles.”
Each month, the BPO will highlight a different member of the orchestra on it’s YouTube channel, sharing their journey as musicians, from their first instruments, to their training, to how they came to join our local orchestra. The video series also offers a glimpse into who they are and the things they enjoy outside the world of music.
The first installment in this series featured Associate Principal Double Bassist, Brett Shurtliffe, who has performed with the BPO since 2007. A Pennsylvania native, Shurtliffe began his musical journey as a child learning the violin under the guidance of his mother, a Suzuki violin instructor.
“When I turned 10, the older kids in school came down to do a music demonstration and I thought the bass looked fun and easy,” Shurtliffe said. “One of those is correct, one is not. And I switched. Shortly thereafter when I hit about 15 or 16, I decided music would become my career.”
It was in these early years that he found ‘Katrina,’ the bass made in Grand Rapids, Michigan that he has played ever since.
Shurtliffe’s parents would drive him several hours to Pittsburgh multiple times per month so that he could study under Jeff Turner, the principal bassist for the Pittsburgh Symphony. It was in these early years that he found “Katrina,” the bass made in Grand Rapids, Michigan that he has played ever since. He later studied at the Eastman School of Music, where he received his Bachelor of Music degree and Performer’s Certificate – an experience he remembers as “a transformative and magical four years.”
Shurtliffe married his high school sweetheart, Andrea, and moved with his wife to Pittsburgh, where she taught high school choir and he studied for his Master of Music degree from Duquesne University, once again studying under Jeff Turner, the musician who taught Shurtliffe in his youth. They had just settled into a new home and were expecting their first baby when an opportunity for him to audition for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra arose.
“Two days after my first child was born, I came to Buffalo sleep deprived with no practice and passed through the first couple of rounds on luck. Between my semi-final and final round, a friend in Buffalo wanted to take me out to lunch and took me to his favorite spot, the Anchor Bar, where I had a dozen hot wings and a pint of beer. So there it is. The secret to my success – Anchor Bar hot wings.”
Shurtliffe and his family relocated to the Boston Hills just outside of Buffalo, purchasing an 1850s farmhouse whose renovation would become Shurtliffe’s main focus when he wasn’t practicing or performing with the BPO. When they need an escape, Shurtliffe and his family enjoy spending time in nature and hiking the Adirondacks, a place “where [his] heart lies outside of music.”
I always come back to Kleinhans because symphonic music is the best the human spirit has offered for hundreds of years.
“I always come back to Kleinhans because symphonic music is the best the human spirit has offered for hundreds of years,” Shurtliffe said. “It is the best of human spirituality, of human intellect, of love. We’re not presenting museum pieces on stage, we are bringing them back to life in a way that transports you through time and takes a brick from the past and builds a bridge to the future. It changes every time we perform them and that’s something that will never get old for me.”
The BPO will release a new musician feature every month. Their next profile will interview Principal Flutist Christine Davis. To stay up-to-date on the newest installments in the series, subscribe to the BPO’s YouTube channel.