Helena Kopchick Spencer, bassoon

Helena Kopchick Spencer is principal bassoonist of the Opera Wilmington Orchestra and Oregon Mozart Players, second bassoonist of the Eugene Opera Orchestra, and second bassoonist/contrabassoonist of the Long Bay Symphony. She has also performed as a substitute/extra musician with the Eugene, Colorado, and Oregon Symphony Orchestras, as well as the Cabrillo and Oregon Bach Festival Orchestras. She has appeared as a featured soloist with the Oregon Mozart Players (Vivaldi, Concerto in B-flat, RV 504 and Chamber Concerto in F Major, RV 570, “La tempesta di mare”; Mozart, Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat), Salem Chamber Orchestra (Mark Fish, Ferdinand the Bull, with narrator David Ogden Stiers), University of Oregon Symphony Orchestra (Walter Mays, Rhapsody), Tallis Chamber Orchestra (Vivaldi, Concerto for Cello and Bassoon in E minor, RV 409), and UNC Wilmington Chamber Winds (Vivaldi, Concerto in C Major, RV 477; David Gillingham, Concerto for Woodwind Quintet). 

As part of the Transformations Duo with flutist Sophia Tegart, she has performed at conferences of the National Flute Association, College Music Society, and the International Alliance for Women in Music. The duo’s current project, awarded a 2016 Charles L. Cahill Grant, is a collaboration with composer Jessica Rudman on a cycle of musical miniatures inspired by American poet Anne Sexton’s Transformations, a collection of modernist retellings of Grimm’s fairy-tales. Past projects include chamber music programs designed to complement special exhibitions of artwork by Lesley Dill, Kara Walker, and Ryo Toyonaga at the the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (Eugene, OR). 

Helena studied with Barrick Stees at Michigan State University and the Cleveland Institute of Music (BM Performance with academic honors), Steve Vacchi at the University of Oregon (MM Performance), and Per Hannevold at the Aspen Music Festival & School, where she held a three-year fellowship in contrabassoon. In 2014, she earned a PhD in musicology from the University of Oregon, with a supporting area in bassoon performance. Her dissertation examines gender and the pastoral in nineteenth-century French grand opera and ballet, and her publications include essays in the volumes La Sylphide—Paris 1832 and Beyond (ed. Marian Smith, Dance Books, 2012) and Meyerbeer and Grand Opéra from the July Monarchy to the Present (ed. Mark Everist, Brepols, 2016). 

She is currently Assistant Professor of Music History and Affiliated Faculty in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She also teaches bassoon and performs with her UNCW colleagues in the Faculty Wind Quintet, Early Music Consort, and Pro Musica Concert Series/New Music Festival. Previously, she taught at Willamette University (Salem, OR) as adjunct instructor of bassoon and at the University of Oregon as a Graduate Teaching Fellow in bassoon and musicology. She is a frequent guest lecturer for UNCW’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and, with colleague Nancy King, has created Opera Wilmington’s annual “Exploring Opera” symposium, an initiative that has been supported by a UNCW Community Engagement Grant.