Erica Howard, Principal Oboe

Exclusive Interview:

Q. For how long have you been playing and performing music?Ballet oboes

I was in the Austin Children’s Choir for a few years in elementary school. I played the recorder in music class in school in the 4th and 5th grades, and I started the oboe in band in the 6th grade.

Q. How many and what instruments do you play?

I primarily play 3 instruments — the oboe, the English horn, and the oboe d’amore. I have played the bass oboe and the recorder in a professional setting, but only once each.

Q. What is your favorite part about performing in front of a live audience?

I think of performing as a sort of story-telling, and there isn’t ultimately much point to telling a story if there is no one to hear it! And you can feel the collective energy of the audience from the stage, which makes it feel totally different from a rehearsal in the empty concert hall.

Q. If you could play any instrument you don’t already know, what would you play?

Probably the horn — I love the sound of it and there’s so many great moments for the horn in the orchestral literature.

Q. What are some of your other hobbies?

Does making oboe reeds count as a hobby? Just kidding… sort of! I enjoy knitting, cooking, and lying in the hammock with a book!

Q. What is the most bizarre performing experience you have had?

I’ve done a couple of performances in costume that were definitely a bit out of the ordinary — when I was in youth orchestra, we played Peter and the Wolf while acting out the story in costume, and a few years ago I had an on-stage role with the Atlanta Ballet as a French street musician.

Q. What is your favorite music genre to listen to?

I really do love listening to classical orchestral music! Some of my favorites are J.S. Bach, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich.

Q. What is on your latest playlist?

During the orchestral season, I usually have a playlist of everything that I’m playing for the next couple of months on in the background when I’m doing things around the house or driving just to get the pieces in my ear and start thinking about how I want to interpret them. At the moment, it’s the music for the Suites & Sweets concert, Debussy’s La Mer, Ravel’s Bolero and Daphnis and Chloe, Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony, Dvorak’s 9th Symphony, and Minkus’s Don Quixote.

Q. What musician or group of musicians inspires you the most?

Every recording of the Metropolitan Opera I’ve ever heard has been phenomenal — really about as close to “perfect” performances as I think you can get! I also really enjoy hearing a great solo violinist — Hilary Hahn, Gil Shaham, and Joshua Bell make frequent appearances in my CD player.

Q. Are you excited for your upcoming performance with the CSO?

Absolutely! I had a “classical music mix tape” that my parents made me when I was a toddler and the Brandenburg was on it, so it’s a piece that I’ve been familiar with for a very long time but I’ve never played it before outside of working on a few sections of it for an orchestral excerpts class while I was in college.

Q. Which three people (famous or otherwise) would you most like to invite to a dinner party, and why?

Honestly, I’ve never really had much desire to meet anyone famous in person — I’m perfectly happy just to observe them in their element from a bit of a distance, whether it’s watching someone perform or listening to them speak or reading what they’ve written. Most musicians’ schedules are a little on the crazy side, so it’s a treat when I have a chance to just spend an evening hanging out with a few close friends I haven’t gotten to spend much time with recently.

Q. What accomplishment in your life are you most proud of?

I’m not sure if I could point to any one thing in particular — I’m getting to do what I love for a living, which really means there’s a lot of high points!

Q. Do you have a nickname? How did you get it?

Not really, but I do still have several friends who start emails and messages to me with “Quack!” rather than “Hi” even though the performance in the duck costume was nearly 18 years ago!

Q. What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be an architect until I got to Geometry in 8th grade and found it pretty boring. I realized around that same time that Band was probably my favorite class and started thinking that maybe I could be a musician.

Q. If you could attend any live performance (musical or otherwise) what would it be and why?

I would like to see Hamilton. I’d also love to see the Metropolitan Opera in person.

Q. In your time with the CSO, what has been the greatest experience?

I’m not sure I can narrow it down to just one! There are so many great pieces that I’ve wanted to play for years and have finally gotten the chance to perform for the first time with this orchestra. Shostakovich 11, Copland’s Quiet City, the Barber Violin Concerto, and Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin were all certainly high up on my “bucket list”, as is the Brandenburg Concerto we’re performing this month.

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