Dr. Ian Saunders enjoys an exciting career as a sought-after bassist whose performed with major ensembles that include: The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and The Sphinx Symphony. The Virginia native began his studies with Christopher White, principal bassist of the Virginia Symphony, in his hometown of Norfolk. Within a year he received his first major scholarship from R&B legend Ben E. King. Dr. Saunders completed his bachelor’s degree under the tutelage of renowned bassist Robert Nairn at the Pennsylvania State University. He continued his graduate studies under Nairn while fulfilling numerous professional engagements with the Williamsport Symphony, Penn’s Woods Festival Orchestra, Ballet Theatre of Central Pennsylvania, and Manassas Ballet Theatre. In addition, he served as Principal Bassist of the Penn Centre Orchestra, Nittany Valley Symphony, and Altoona Symphony.
In 2016 he received his doctorate from the University of Maryland while studying with Robert Oppelt, principal bassist of the National Symphony Orchestra. Dr. Saunders was in high demand within the competitive Baltimore and DC freelance community, most notably as the bassist for the critically acclaimed Post-Classical Ensemble. In March of 2016, he was featured on WBJC 91.5 Baltimore performing Guillaume Connesson’s Sextuor. The following year, Dr. Saunders won a prestigious diversity fellowship position with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where he studied with his mentor Owen Lee, the CSO’s principal bassist. Furthermore, he has appeared at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington D.C), Heinz Hall (Pittsburgh, PA), and New York’s Carnegie Hall, as well as abroad in Canada, Mexico, and the Bahamas.
Outside of the classical world, he has been invited to participate in orchestras backing Bootsy Collins, Kansas, and hip-hop artist Thee Phantom. He can also be seen in the nationally televised special Cherish the Ladies: An Irish Homecoming, with the Irish supergroup Cherish the Ladies, which was nationally syndicated on PBS in 2013.
As an educator, Dr. Saunders served as the Interim Double Bass Professor at Penn State. In addition, he’s taught classes at The University of Maryland, The University of Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky University and St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Dr. Saunders also spent several summers as the Associate Dean of Students at the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, NC.