photo: Mei Stone

Dr. Cornelia Sommer is a bassoonist, arranger, and educator dedicated to sharing music with diverse audiences and expanding the bassoon’s repertoire. Originally from Seattle, she joined the Detroit Symphony Orchestra as Second Bassoon in Fall 2023.

Sommer’s recent performance and research projects have focused on music inspired by fairy tales. NEW ENCHANTMENTS: FAIRY TALE MUSIC FOR BASSOON is her debut album and is supported by grants from the Presser Foundation and the International Double Reed Society. Sommer’s doctoral dissertation, titled “Magic, Distance, and Simplicity: Archetypal Patterns in Fairy Tale Music as Analyzed in Chamber Pieces by Ravel, Janáček, and Schumann,” was awarded the Richard F. French Prize for an outstanding dissertation. On Instagram as @pulcinellie_, she has a large following for her weekly videos of bassoon excerpts from fairy tale music.

Previously Principal Bassoonist of the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, Sommer joined the Detroit Symphony as Second Bassoon in Fall 2023. During the 2022–2023 season, she was a frequent guest contrabassoonist with the Boston Symphony, with concerts at Symphony Hall, Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood, and on tour in Europe. Sommer has also performed with the San Francisco Symphony, Seattle Symphony, International Chamber Orchestra of Puerto Rico, Oregon Symphony, and, on historical instruments, American Bach Soloists and Juilliard415. As a chamber musician, she has performed with the Breaking Winds Bassoon Quartet and at the Kennedy Center, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, and Fischoff Competition. She has played concerti with the Coeur D’Alene Symphony and the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra; she was also a Meg Quigley Vivaldi Competition Semi-Finalist and the recipient of the Yale School of Music Alumni Prize and Benzaquen Career Grant.

Sommer actively seeks to expand the bassoon’s repertoire through her collaborations with composers and her own arrangements. In addition to the works on NEW ENCHANTMENTS, her arrangements have been performed around the world by members of the New York Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony, and Atlanta Symphony. Several of her arrangements, including Stravinsky’s Pulcinella for bassoon and piano, are published through TrevCo Music Publishing.

An experienced educator, Sommer currently teaches bassoon at Oakland University and privately in the Detroit metro area. She has served as an adjunct professor at The Juilliard School, teaching Music History and Ethics, and as a Teaching Fellow in arts education at Juilliard, Teaching Artist in Yale’s Music-In-Schools Initiative, bassoon instructor in the Yale Department of Music, and faculty member at Seattle’s Vivace Chamber Players. She has presented masterclasses and lectures at the University of Alabama, Colorado State University, University of Central Arkansas, and International Double Reed Society Convention.

A graduate of The Juilliard School (D.M.A.), Yale University (M.M.), and Indiana University (B.M.), Sommer has studied bassoon with Frank Morelli, Kathleen McLean, William Ludwig, and Francine Peterson, and baroque bassoon with Dominic Teresi.