Case Study is a new series in which we ask musicians to tell us a bit more about their approach to musicmaking—and life!—by opening their instrument cases to us and letting us peek inside. This week, we're featuring the Principal Bassist of the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, Andrew Trombley.

We caught up with Andrew on an early summer day and realized quickly that we were going to need a ladder to photograph his instrument and all the accessories that he carries along with it. What we discovered is a veritable MacGyver of the bass! Find out how Andrew uses things like wooden sticks, rubber tubes, and lacrosse balls to neutralize bad weather, fight injury, and go from Mahler to Mozart in a single week.


Case Study: Bassist Andrew Trombley
Photo and graphics by Dan Gomes
The contents of Andrew Trombley's bass case, with numeric labels

1. Bass – While Andrew has owned this instrument for only three years, it has a long history. It's known as a composite, which means the top, back, and scroll have been salvaged from older, damaged instruments to create a new one. Many older instruments, especially during periods of war in Europe, have been subjected to improper storage conditions, resulting in partial or total damage. This particular instrument is an all-Italian composite.

2. Bows – Andrew keeps two bows in his bow case. One is a Bernardel bow, given to him by a previous Mostly Mozart Festival bassist, Timothy Cobb. The second is made by George Rubino, a bowmaker in Maine.

3. Rosin – In the summer, Andrew actually prefers playing with cello rosin because it's less likely to gunk up the hair on his bow in the more humid months. He keeps a variety of rosin in his case.

4. Lucky charm – It's slightly hard to see in this photo, but Andrew's lucky charm has been a constant in his case for the past six years. Meant to inspire creativity, it was a gift from his wife after a visit to a Japanese shrine.

5. Wolf tone eliminator – This device helps balance the frequencies within the instrument, enhancing its tone and providing a more direct sound.

6. Mutes – Two wooden mutes. Andrew prefers the tone quality offered by wooden mutes rather than rubber ones. One he carries was a gift from a past teacher, Judith Sugarman, a Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra icon due to her 35 years as assistant principal bassist.

7. Endpin – A carbon fiber endpin. Compared to steel, carbon fiber allows Andrew's bass to sound more "open."

8. Spare sound posts – Like any wooden object, a flat-back bass often shrinks and expands due to changes in temperature and humidity. Strategically placing these sound posts inside the instrument prevents the wood from cracking, while also improving sound quality.

9. Earplugs – A must-have for Andrew in rehearsal, especially when playing with large orchestras.

10. Lacrosse ball – Playing a bass for lengths of time can lead to back pain. Andrew uses a lacrosse ball to massage his back muscles in between playing.

11. Steel wool – Steel wool is an efficient tool for removing excess rosin from his bows.

12. Rubber tubing – Using a bit of dish soap to slide a length of rubber tubing onto his bow, Andrew minimizes the discomfort on his thumb when playing.

13. Wooden bridge guide – This wooden template allows Andrew to easily and consistently align the bridge on his bass, reducing the need for professional fine tuning.

14. Pencils – Andrew likes to collect pencils from the various orchestras he plays with. Here he has two from the New York Philharmonic (one branded with Avery Fisher Hall) and two from his high school in Monticello.

15. Wheel – A bass is a rather heavy instrument! This wheel, which replaces the endpin, allows Andrew to glide his instrument around the city.

16. Business cards – Even though Andrew mostly connects with musicians via Facebook Messenger these days, it's still a good idea to have physical business cards just in case.

17. Coffee candies – Andrew's favorite candies from a Korean store in Yonkers. When he can't reach for a cup of coffee, these will usually give him the caffeine kick he needs. 

Case Study: Bassist Andrew Trombley
Photo by Dan Gomes
Andrew Trombley, Principal Bass of the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra

About the Artist

Andrew Trombley is Principal Bass for the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra & New Haven Symphony Orchestra, and is a member of the Stamford Symphony Orchestra. He also performs with ensembles throughout New York City including the New York Philharmonic, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and the New York Choral Society. An active recording artist, Andrew has performed for many film scores, including A Dog’s Purpose, Hundred Foot Journey, and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, among others.

Led by conductor Louis Langrée, the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra is the resident orchestra of the Mostly Mozart Festival.

Dan Gomes is the manager of social communications for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.