The Sunday Magazine

Meet the best bassoon maker in the world

Ben Bell is a Canadian bassoon maker whose instruments are beloved by top musicians from around the world. Karin Wells makes her way to his studio in the woods, to bring us a documentary profile of the talented Mr. Bell.
Canadian bassoon-maker Ben Bell in his studio. (Karin Wells)

This country has produced some very fine novelists, legions of the world's best figure skaters, four Nobel prize-winning physicists and, by all accounts, the best bassoon maker in the world.

The bassoon - an 8-foot tube doubled up and encased in maple - emits the richest, warmest sound you can imagine. The bassoon player sits in the middle of the orchestra, lips pursed, thumbs and fingers playing on a network of silver keys. Seldom a star. Always an anchor.

There is no school of bassoon making. Ben Bell - his name as mellifluous as his instruments - was born in Whitehorse, grew up in Northern Alberta, and simply pursued his passion.

For more than twenty years now, bassoonists from all over the world have made the trek to his workshop, deep in the woods near Peterborough, Ontario, and are willing to pay as much as $35,000 for these excellent instruments.

Karin Wells followed in their footsteps, to bring us a portrait of the man who makes Bell Bassoons.