What is your earliest memory of classical music? I would take trips to Walt Disney World and I was always fascinated by EPCOT’s Illuminations music. I come to find out later in life that it was a jumble of about 25 different classical pieces and I have played most of those at this point.
When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career? I always knew I wanted to be a musician. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go into teaching, therapy, or playing. When I played my first concert in Heinz Hall (where the PSO plays), my youth orchestra performed Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony and it was the first time I played principal on a symphony. When I walked out on stage, I knew right then and there that I was meant to be an orchestral musician.
What inspired you to audition for TŌN? I first heard about TŌN from a teacher. I knew that I needed to continue my studies as an orchestral musician after my master’s. TŌN offered not only a position where one was performing almost every week, but also a chance to make yourself sustainable as a freelance musician, which is very important at this stage in my career.
Who is your biggest inspiration? My brother, Johnny. He has Down syndrome and he is an incredible person. He has so much love in his heart and encourages everyone to strive to do their best. Being in such a competitive field, it’s easy to get lost in the atmosphere of auditions and winning, but Johnny reminds me to always be patient and kind.
What is your favorite piece of music, and why do you love it? This question isn’t fair! I have a top 20 list. If I had to choose one, I would say Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “The Resurrection.” This piece will take you on a 72-minute-long roller coaster of emotions. The last movement really stands out to me because I love the off-stage instrumentation between the brass and the on-stage flute/piccolo and then the piece ends with a huge chorus. It is epic to say the least!
What has been your favorite experience as a musician? Working with incredibly talented musicians from all over the world.
Do you have any embarrassing performance stories? When I was at Texas Music Festival, we performed Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 (another favorite of mine!) and I was playing principal. The concert was outside in Houston, TX in the middle of July. Needless to say, it was hot and humid. I was giving the tuning A and all of a sudden the note made an abrupt stop. I looked at my reed and it was split in two. The humidity must have been too much for the cane. Everyone stopped and stared at me and I had the second oboist give the rest of the tuning As because I needed to get another reed ready. I learned from that experience to always have another reed ready to go.
What is some advice you would give to your younger self? Trust your instincts and go with your gut. Sometimes things won’t always work out the way you planned, but as you progress in life, doors open when you least expect them to.
Favorite non-classical musician or band: Queen or Dave Matthews Band
If you could play another instrument, what would it be? The French horn. That instrument has the most beautiful sound and some of the coolest parts in the orchestral repertoire.
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing? I would probably be working with people with special needs. Growing up with a brother that has special needs, I have a passion for working with his colleagues.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with and why? My grandfather, Alan Rickman, and Walt Disney. I have never met my grandfather on my mother’s side. He passed away when she was 7 and I would love to meet him. I hear he was an amazing man. Walt Disney had an insane imagination that I would love to hear about. Alan Rickman was one of my favorite actors of all time. I’d probably just ask him to repeat lines from Harry Potter all dinner.
Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us: I am a huge sports fan. I watch almost anything sports-related and I am obsessed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins.
Piece of advice for a young classical musician: Be you and be humble. Take advice from others and use your ears more than your mouth, but be you and play the way you want to play.