Next week I have a Symphony Silicon Valley concert. I will be stepping up to play principal so I am preparing for the change of hats. (Don’t worry, our regular principal oboist, Pamela Hakl, will be back!)

Yes, playing first oboe is quite different to playing second. In some ways there is a bit of a freedom: I won’t be thinking about playing under the principal which can sometimes cause issues with attacks as I try not to be too loud. But of course there’s the stress of being in the hot seat.

I prepare in many ways. I of course practice my part. I listen to a variety of recordings. I make sure I know what’s going on in other sections and especially make sure I practice the solos and tricky bits. (I mark anything technically difficult with an X, either over the passage or to the side of that line of music.) I also play through the entire concert — even the easy whole notes and loud bits — so I make sure my mouth is strong enough to get through the works.

This is a taxing concert. I don’t have huge solos, but I play a lot in the Dvorak eighth symphony. I play enough that I worry about getting through it. When I watched a video on MediciTV (a great source! And no, I don’t get any perks by recommending them here.) I noticed that that particular orchestra used an assistant principal oboe. I have played that part as well in the past. I sure could use that myself, but wasn’t offered that option and didn’t think to ask.

We are also doing the second piano concerto by Brahms. What a gorgeous work.

Here is Jon Kimura Parker (our soloist) talking about the work (2011 YouTube video):

That slow movement he talks about, and the incredible cello solo, is something I’m very much looking forward to hearing, played by our wonderful principal cellist, Evan Kahn. And yes, the horn (“The horn, the horn, awakes me at morn!” Anyone remember that?) has a very important role at the very beginning and more later, so it will be a delight to hear Meredith Brown play as well!

But then it’s a pleasure and honor to hear all of the musicians of Symphony Silicon Valley play. I hope you can be there!