Why. Would ANYone play oboe?
The oboe and me go way back. When I was a young girl, my parents played me a recording of “Peter and the Wolf”. I said, ‘I want to play the oboe. I want to be the duck.” Some of my favorite childhood memories involve lying on the variegated shag carpet on the floor of my father’s study, listening to records on his turn table and watching the smoke from his pipe swirl up around the ceiling. There I was introduced to and learned the pieces that remain to this day some of my favorites: Beethoven Symphonies 6 and 9. Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. Rossini’s La Gazza Ladra. To name a few.
When I was a little older, my parents took me to a chamber music concert, where I heard Bach Cantatas. I said, “I want to play the oboe. Go sign me up for lessons with that lady up there.” And my parents did that, and that lady became my teacher for the better part of a decade.
When it was time to think about college, my parents took me to hear the principal oboist of the New York Philharmonic, Joe Robinson, who was from the neighboring town of Davidson and was playing a fund raising recital. We didn’t have the money for the expensive tickets, so my mother called the local newspaper. They bought us tickets to the recital and wrote an article in which I claimed my greatest goal was to win a ‘big fat hairy scholarship’ to a good music school. And then, a year later, I did win a big fat hairy scholarship.
I am blessed to have parents that not only listened to classical music themselves, but bought me records, took me to concerts, paid for lessons, and helped me in every way they could to achieve my rather unusual dream to play the oboe professionally. I was doubly blessed to have access to band and orchestra programs in our public schools, a good local symphony and youth symphony with good, devoted teachers and conductors.
IT IS STILL A THRILL TO HEAR THOSE PIECES I LEARNED TO LOVE WHILE LAZING ABOUT AS A CHILD.
Now I am a grown up with children of my own. I am a music teacher, a mother, and a professional freelance musician. I have played in professional orchestras all over the country, I’ve played chamber music in France and England and Austria and Germany. I’m one of the luckiest people I know because I’ve been able to do these amazing things. It is still a thrill to hear those pieces I learned to love while lazing about as a child. When I get to play them, I still can’t believe that I can be a part of making those amazing pieces of art come alive.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that one of my greatest joys is sitting on stage with fellow musicians and playing a piece that I love….or even, sometimes, a piece that I don’t love at all. There is something indescribably blissful about being a part of a group of people who are breathing together, concentrating their individual efforts and minds on a single, shared vision, an expression of art and shared humanity. It’s the closest thing to a religious experience I’ve had and in those moments, I feel a connection to not only my fellow musicians and the composer, but to some universal truth that is only accessible through this transcendent experience.
MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, I’M WORRIED ABOUT MY REEDS
Don’t get me wrong: it’s not always this way….only occasionally. More often than not, I’m worried about my reeds, or whether or not I’ve been counting the right number of rests, or anxious to get off stage and go out for a beer, or annoyed at the farting cellist in front of me. But even in these frequent and less than blissful moments, I never stop feeling a gratitude that I still get to play oboe with people I care for, for an audience that wants to be there.