Local man gains national attention after bassoon mistaken for rifle

Eric Barga has been on the national stage before. As band manager for Kenton Ridge High School, he was part of the group’s performance in the 2012 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.

It was his bassoon that propelled him into headlines about a month ago — but it had nothing to do with music.

In April, Barga was sitting on his car in the parking lot of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Springfield.

While he waited for bell practice to start, he pulled out his bassoon and started to play.

RELATED: Springfield bassoonist’s instrument mistaken for gun

A person from the street called police, mistaking Barga’s instrument for a long rifle.

“It looks like there’s some younger dude, maybe in his 20’s sitting there with a gun – could be not a gun – like a big rifle-looking thing,” the caller said. “I’m not sure, but I thought I would call.”

Springfield police responded, and quickly realized the misunderstanding. Officers left with a good laugh to the tune of Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto — the musician’s only composure that features the instrument.

The encounter has since gained national attention, earning a swarm of user comments on sites like Reddit.

“That’s why I have an open carry license for my oboe,” one comment reads. “Nah, I’ll just wait until this blows over,” says another.

MORE: Social media reacts to Springfield mans bassoon being mistaken for gun

The story even reached beyond the borders of the United States. For example, it was featured in an online Yahoo News UK story on Tuesday and an online article on an Australian magazine’s site on Thursday.

Barga said even pro-second amendment news media have picked the story up, framing it around public hysteria over guns.

Despite all the media frenzy — Barga said his life really hasn’t changed that much since the incident.

“I haven’t gotten any attention outside of my friends from college and my friends from high school being like ‘Oh my God, he’s a sensation,’” Barga said.

Barga said he doesn’t blame the concerned person for calling 9-1-1, especially in a time when heightened senses of security are normal.

Springfield Police Chief Lee Graf said the caller did the right thing, and he would encourage the responsible use of the city’s safety services if something doesn’t seem right.

Barga said he understood how the confusion could have happened.

“Everyone thinks it’s a bazooka or something,” Barga said. “It’s been kind of waiting to happen that someone would mistake it for something weird.”

Even though the situation deescalated quickly, Barga still earned some laughs when he finally made it to bell practice.

If nothing else — “It makes a good dinner party story,” he said.

He jokingly added he’s still waiting on a call from the ‘Ellen’ show.

About the Author