Aside from cartoons and (I probably shouldn’t admit this), as a child I had a wild attachment to an LP called “Hooked on Classics,” a record of the early 80s of The Royal Philharmonic, conducted by Louis Clark. As a preacher’s kid I was steeped in the hymns of the Lutheran church and surrounded by fabulous church musicians and choirs. In addition, my father has a passion for organ music and could change the timbre of his voice to match the sounds of the different pipes. I have a keen sense of musical color and resonance, which I attribute to listening to him hum along, blending in or standing out in the texture of the organ compositions of J.S. Bach and Paul Manz, after whom my brother is named.
We moved around a lot when I was a kid. Once my aunt gave me a plastic recorder, a fingering chart and a little book of songs. I sat on the floor, at around age 8, in a hotel waiting to move into the house in a new city, and taught myself to play. When we arrived a few years later to yet another new city all my new friends were in the band. Joining seemed to me a social necessity. I wanted to play the flute, but the band director, Ms. Prentice, told me there are too many flutes and that I would never catch up since I was starting three years later than peers. I “admitted” that I played the recorder so she handed me an oboe, a (working) reed and a fingering chart. The oboe appealed to me because the neighbor girl played, and my mother thought the instrument was a beautiful black with silver keys. Shortly after that someone gave me a soundtrack for the movie “The Mission.” The oboe solo in that still knocks my socks off. I did not discover it that I was intended to have a career in music –it just happened. A colleague of mine said recently “musiker-sein ist ein zustand,” which means “being a musician is a state, a situation, a condition.”
I had many wonderful mentors and I am (still!) a conscientious, eager student. This is a beautiful combination. I am especially grateful to Steven Amundson, the orchestra director at St. Olaf College who saw my potential as an orchestral player even while I was young and new to the oboe. He gave me many opportunities to develop. Starting with Lutheran Summer Music camp in the summers during high school, I had the opportunity to play in renaissance consorts on recorders, crumhorns and shawms. I did this all through college while studying modern oboe and traveling with large symphony orchestras.
When I moved to Germany in the last years of the 20th century, I met a Jewish American oboist and former student of Steve Hammer, the late Matthew Peaceman. He handed me an oboe da caccia, a (working) reed and the music for the Christmas Oratorio by J.S. Bach and told me to show up prepared for the gig. In that moment my career as a specialist for historical performance began. The allure for me goes back to the timbres and colors I discovered listening to Dad’s humming–I love the palate of colors with any instruments, especially the historical ones. Blending, changing, carrying, shifting timbres, sometimes all on one note! It’s a physical sensation in my body and it feels good to hear and play.