The principal oboe player is arguably the third most important musician in an orchestra, right behind the music director and concertmaster (principal first violinist). It’s the oboist who tunes the orchestra at the beginning of every concert (with that familiar, plaintive “A” tone). And it’s that player who leads the other wind players with her instrument’s instantly recognizable nasal sound.

This quote is from a recent article* about the winner of the Rochester Philharmonic oboe audition.

… but I thought we were the most important!

Needless to say I will be puzzling over this for days to come. 😉

And about that word “plaintive” … I am weary of it. Can we think of something else? (But not “whiney” please!) I don’t think I like the word “nasal” either when describing our sound. I suppose it’s correct, but it just bugs me. Let’s stick to “beautiful, lovely, perfect …”. Yes. Those will do!

The article talks about all the oboe openings that are occurring these days. It’s a wonderful time for the young, talented and energetic.

Me? I like where I am, thank you very much.

*article no longer available


  1. Scott Spiegelberg

    No, no, no.  Principal oboe isn’t the third most important, but
    fourth.  First is conductor, second is concertmaster, third is
    principal trumpet.  The leader of the brass section, most
    noticeable of the instruments and leader of the loudest section (well,
    maybe percussion), and the principal trumpet sets the sound profile for
    the orchestra.  But you oboists are very good at playing
    A440  🙂

  2. Patricia Mitchell

    Oh Scott, I would beg to differ, but I make it a practice never to beg.

    Trumpets. Hah! Yes, they may be noticeable. But so is the loud crass and drunk man at the ballgame. Doesn’t make him important!

    And conductors? Important? Maybe in their own minds. Same with concertmaster.

    So sorry (not really) but oboe is the VIP. Everyone knows that, even if some aren’t willing to admit it!

    Besides, no one can succeed in making the listener cry better than an oboist. And isn’t that our job? Shoot … if we play well they cry. If we play poorly they cry. We are a success no matter what! 😉