Topic: New Principal Oboe in Rochester
(from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle)
RPO: The next generation
Ariana Ghez says it's an exciting time to be an oboe player.
Staff music critic
(July 15, 2005) — The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra is passing its musical torch to a new generation.
When the orchestra convenes Oct. 6 for the start of its 2005-06 season, its ranks will include two new principal players who are in their mid-20s: Ariana Ghez, 25, was recently named the RPO's new principal oboist. And Juliana Athayde, 24, will take over the concertmaster chair.
They have a lot in common. Both are women who have crashed through the glass ceiling of a profession that's still largely dominated by older white men. Moreover, both essentially came out of nowhere (twentysomethings don't have long résumés) and both are remarkably young, with their combined age not even adding up to RPO Music Director Christopher Seaman's 63 years.
"You have to admit that it's a crazy profession," says Seaman. "It's not like dentistry, you know, because nobody gives a hoot how many doctorates a musician has. We only care about the beauty of the music coming out their instruments, and I think our audiences will be very impressed with our new choices."
Ghez, in particular, faced some pretty stiff competition in winning her new job. She was one of 40 oboists who tried out for the post last May, and many of her competitors, including former RPO principals Laura Griffiths and Andréa Banke, had lots of recent audition experience.
That's because there's currently an unprecedented spate of openings in America for principal oboe players. The Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic and Los Angeles Philharmonic have all been looking for oboists, and the country's best players have all been honing their skills, trying to win one of those plum posts.
The principal oboe player is arguably the third most important musician in an orchestra, right behind the music director and concertmaster. It's the oboist who tunes the orchestra at the beginning of every concert (with that familiar, plaintive A note). And she leads the other wind players with her instrument's instantly recognizable nasal sound.
"I can't believe there've been so many opportunities," says Ghez. "It's a really exciting and wonderful time to be an oboe player."
Ghez is a Manhattan native, and though she did not come from a family of professional musicians, she says music was always in her home. Interestingly enough, she began her musical studies not on the oboe but the harpsichord. Her father, a neurophysiologist, bought a harpsichord kit about 20 years ago after Ghez's mother, a securities analyst, expressed an interest in learning to play it.
"I learned harpsichord because there was one in my home, but I switched to oboe when I turned 10," she says. "Why I switched is still a mystery to me — I just decided I wanted to play oboe. But once I made the decision, there was no turning back."
Ghez received a bachelor's in English from Columbia University in 2003 while studying jointly at the Juilliard School, an unusual degree combination that was influenced by her family.
"I come from a family that believes in having a well-rounded liberal arts education," she says.
Athayde, a San Francisco native who was hired as RPO concertmaster after a frustratingly long four-year search by the orchestra, is more of a specialist.
She holds a bachelor's in music from the University of Michigan and a master's of music from the Cleveland Institute of Music. Last spring, she became the first — and so far only — graduate of the Cleveland Institute's new Concertmaster Academy.
"I won a job at the San Francisco Symphony but turned it down to go to the Concertmaster Academy," Athayde said during a phone interview last March. "Being a concertmaster is all I ever wanted to do."
The RPO has made two other appointments for the coming season: Craig Sutherland, a veteran of the Charleston (S.C.) Symphony Orchestra, as principal tuba; and Matthew Annin, an alumnus of the New World Symphony in Miami, as assistant principal horn.
-Principal Bassoonist, Honolulu Symphony
-Lecturer in Bassoon, University of Hawaii