03 Sep 2009

Musician Spotlight: Robert Stephenson, oboe

1. How old were you when you started playing the oboe?
I was 8 years old, or the summer after the 2nd grade
2. What originally interested you in the oboe?
The sound. Plus my mom wouldn’t let me play drums in the house!
3. Where did you grow up?
Ann Arbor and Interlochen, Michigan and El Cajon, California
4. Where did you attend college?
The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pa.
5. How old is your instrument?
12 years old.
6. Who is your favorite composer?
Whoever’s on my stand.
7. What is your favorite piece of music?
There are too many to name.
8.  Do you play any other instruments?
Yes. The English horn and the oboe d’amore.
9. Describe to us how you create sound with an oboe?
Blow! It involves a balance between a controlled airspeed and embouchure pressure. You often have to go long stretches without breathing in. I also use a technique known as “circular breathing”. During this time you are evaluating and making adjustments for tone, intonation, volume, etc. I’m trying to get the music to speak. It’s communicating without words.
10. What would you name/is there a name for your oboe?
My instrument was made in Paris. It would have to have a sexy French name. Maybe Magnifique Monique, or Oohlala Bizet or Fleur-de-Lisa.
11. If your oboe was an animal, what would it be?
It’s been a snake-charmer, a duck, a quail, a hen, a cuckoo bird, a swan, a donkey….
12. If could wear anything to perform in a Utah Symphony concert what would it be?
Jeans. Though our formal wear is a sign of respect to our audience and our tradition.
13. If you weren’t a musician what would you be?
I might be a glass-blowing, pottery-making, home-renovating, school-teaching, boat-sailing, concert-going, art-collecting, globe-trotting, storm-chasing food critique.
14. What has been the highlight of your career so far?
The next concert.
15. What advice would you give to young future musicians?
Hold on to the passion which drew you into music in the first place and recognize and honor the music-making legacy you’re continuing.