Each year, the MDRS sponsors a competition for young oboists and bassoonists at the high school and college level. Eric Varner was a longtime supporter of the Midwest Double Reed Society, and our annual competition was renamed the Eric Varner Young Artist Competition in 2020 in his honor.
Varner studied music at the University of Michigan and did graduate work in Mannheim, Germany. He came back to the United States for a doctoral degree from Michigan and upon graduation, won a job with the Windsor Symphony in Ontario. He was the principal bassoon with the Windsor Symphony for ten years. While playing in Windsor, he also founded the PEN Trio, a small chamber ensemble with oboe, clarinet and bassoon, which performed together since 2010 and tour frequently throughout the United States, Central American, South American and Asia. During that time, he met the founder of TrevCo Music, an online sheet music store specializing in music for double reed instruments (oboe, English horn, bassoon, and contrabassoon). Trevor Cramer, the founder, was looking to retire and wanted to sell his business to someone in the music industry and my name came up through a mutual acquaintance.
Varner bought the business in December of 2011 and the company was re-named TrevCo-Varner Music, with the tagline “The World’s Foremost Purveyor of Fine Sheet Music For Double Reeds.” Two years later, Varner accepted a job as Professor of Bassoon at the Lynn Conservatory of Music in Boca Raton and moved the entire business back down to Florida. He was active with teaching, performing, and running the business until his death in 2019.