Saturday, September 25, 2010

Out of Africa, Into the Orchestra

This week marked our first week working for the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra in Durban, South Africa and needless to say, there is much to get adjusted to as neither of us have ever been to the African continent before. Like so many musicians, we decided to look a little further for opportunities and felt like we beat the odds finding employment together in the same organization. I took this photo during our four-day trek across the country from Los Angeles to Chicago in our moving truck, our guinea pig Webster sitting between us the whole ride. 

Life as an active free-lance oboist and self-employed chamber musician was a constant balancing act between striving for artistic merit and basic survival. While many of my former school friends and teachers might be surprised to find me in a full-time orchestra, it was the unique chance to perform with a quality ensemble and pursue other artistic interests like new music, chamber music and of course, the Loboe Project, that attracted me to the position. Tomorrow marks our first full week in South Africa and the completion of three concerts. 

I was initially struck by certain similarities that a full-time orchestra in Africa has in common with the free-lancer life-style.  In Los Angeles, a good week for an oboist might consist of some sort of church gig, teaching and various kinds of regional orchestra concerts. Playing everything from Pop and Jewish music concerts to Mexican Christian CD releases and independent film scores in LA gives a musician consistent practice in being able to sight-read just about anything and quickly perform the concert/recording session. The first concert this week was called an "Indian Experience", reflecting the interests of the largest population of Indians outside of India here in Durban. The experience reminded me so much of a concert that could be done in Los Angeles and oddly enough, resulted in a very familiar feeling for me. The following night was a traditional symphony orchestra concert and this weekend there will be an all baroque-music concert. 

While studying in school, many musicians dedicate their time and energy to the orchestral literature.  This is obviously an essential act for those seeking an orchestra career, however; musicians should take the opportunity to play music of different genres very seriously, as the ability to master music in any style is in fact a critical skill set. Whether in school of not, I highly encourage oboists to expose themselves to as many genres as possible.  While not all music that a free-lancer encounters warrants extensive preparation, showing an understanding of the style certainly makes for a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.  Times being as they are, we need to make the best of these Pops concerts!

I was also quite delighted to find a practical use for the Loboe during my first week. In an overture by Handel, the oboe part doubles the violin and behold! A low "A" that does not need to be left out! Though I do not know it for an absolute fact, I was informed that there are about fifteen professional oboists in all of South Africa and thus I am fairly certain that the Loboe will not find any siblings here...for now! 

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