Fernando Traba (R), principal bassoon of Sarasota Orchestra, and mentor Bob Reinert share an afternoon of music in 2007.
In 1992, Fernando Traba was settling comfortably into his job as Sarasota Orchestra's new principal bassoonist. His arrival had been celebrated in the local press.
"They did a big write-up in the newspaper: Welcome, Fernando Traba!" Fernando remembers, and so that evening, he was touched when a distinguished gentleman approached him backstage to commend his performance."He told me that he used to teach bassoon, and I thought, oh—what a nice guy," Fernando says. This 'nice guy' was Charles Robert "Bob" Reinert, a World War II veteran, automobile enthusiast, and master pedagogue who transformed many prominent American bassoonists' musicianship as a professor at the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. Upon his retirement, Bob moved to Florida with his soulmate, Peg, to whom he'd been married since 1938.
Bob and Peg Reinert
Fernando and Bob's after-concert meeting led to dinner at the Reinerts' home:
"As we started to talk about all the technical aspects of bassoon playing, that's how I realized how much this man knew," Fernando says. After their first meal together, an invitation for Fernando to attend a rehearsal of the Anna Maria Island Community Chorus and Orchestra [AMICCO] soon followed.
"At the AMICCO rehearsal, I was taken aback," Fernando says. The incomparable sound produced by Bob's playing technique astonished him.
"Here was this man in his early 80s playing the bassoon, and he was sounding beautiful," Fernando recalls. "I was 30 and had already been playing professionally in Europe and Mexico for years. I had studied with very famous people, and suddenly I find this man here in Sarasota who, I realized, knows more about bassoon playing than many people I knew. We became best friends, and he revolutionized my playing."
When Bob was finally ready to pack up his reeds for good, he let Fernando buy his 1923 bassoon made by the Heckel company—"the Stradivarius of bassoon-makers"—for a song. Bob's prized Heckel is the same instrument Sarasota Orchestra audiences hear Fernando play in concerts today.
After Fernando proposed to Betsy Hudson, Sarasota Orchestra's principal flutist, he then asked Bob to be the best man at their wedding; when Fernando and Betsy's daughters were born, Bob and Peg received them into the world, and their lives, just like grandparents.
The Reinerts continued to attend Sarasota Orchestra concerts, and Fernando looked forward to a certain phone call after each performance:
"Either I would call Bob, or he would call me to talk about what could be better, how the orchestra sounded, all manner of things about the performance," Fernando says. "Betsy told me she was starting to get jealous!"
After Bob passed away in 2007, Peg supported Sarasota Orchestra's youth education programs as a tribute to Bob's legacy as an educator and remained a devoted concert-goer.
Peg with Betsy Hudson Traba, principal flute of Sarasota Orchestra, and the Trabas' two daughters in 2008.
"When Fernando was featured in chamber concerts or solos with the Orchestra, we knew we would always see Peg; she was not going to miss it when Fernando performed," says Jocelyn Udell, Sarasota Orchestra's Director of Donor Engagement in Leadership Giving. Peg lived for another 11 years until the age of 102, and in those years, Fernando cherished opportunities to spend time outside of concerts with his mentor's life partner. He kept a lunch date with her every Tuesday.
"Having that relationship with Bob and Peg, after Bob passed away, it was only natural for me," Fernando says.
Although they remained incredibly close through her final days, Fernando had no idea Peg planned to leave a generous six-figure legacy to Sarasota Orchestra when she passed.
"While Peg left the gift, it came from her and Bob and their marriage together," says Jocelyn, who stewarded the Reinerts' gift to the Orchestra. "When I met Peg, she talked about Fernando and Betsy and their girls, and it was like she was speaking of her children and grandchildren. Peg and Bob's gift to the Orchestra comes from their deep relationship and connection to our musicians."
"Now, every time I play, I'm thinking of him,” Fernando says. “Performing is a constant reminder of what Bob Reinert did for me and for Sarasota Orchestra."