… and this is the first time I’ve played Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony!”

Those were the words I spoke to George Cleve during a rehearsal break yesterday.

Crazy, no? But for the majority of my career I was the English hornist of the San Jose Symphony, and only morphed into a second oboist when the SJS folded and Symphony Silicon Valley was started. I continue to be blessed and amazed and incredibly moved by the music that I’ve heard all my career but have only recently been able to play.

Tchaikovksy’s sixth is, for me, about life and death and joy and sorrow and oh so much more. (I normally don’t like to say a work is “about” anything at all — it makes me uncomfortable to do so — but I’m going there with this. Please forgive!) It’s painful. It’s beautiful. And for some reason it makes me miss my parents terribly. When I spoke those words above to the Maestro I nearly cried. When I think of the work and playing it I nearly cry too. I’m so honored to finally get to play it.

It’s also my first time playing Brahms’ first piano concerto. I look forward to hearing Peter Serkin tonight. I’m sure it’ll be incredible.

Some works get less impressive as I age. Some that I thought were amazing when I was twenty … well … I think, “How in the world did that move me like it did?” (Some books are the same way: I read something years ago that had me sobbing on the floor when I finished, so I read it again more recently to try and remember why I was so moved and it left me rather cold. Funny how that goes.) But these two works? For me they’ve grown better with age. Go figure.

I am most blessed to have this little career ‘o mine. Truly.

Click here to read about the concerts and get your tickets!


  1. Did you ever learn the lyrics to the first movement second theme of the Tchaik?

    “If it sounds nice, or better yet, sublime,
    Then it sounds twice as nice the second time.”

    Not mine; it’s from Josefa Heifetz’ book “From Bach to Verse: Comic Mnemonics for Famous Musical Themes.”

  2. Nope, hadn’t heard that one. We used to have a book full of these, but I guess we must have tossed it at some point. (Not the one you have mentioned, though.)