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Katherine Needleman

Principal Oboe

Katherine Needleman has been Principal Oboist since 2003.

Do you practice every day?
Of course! In addition to the new repertoire I prepare each week, I practice many other things for my own enjoyment, inspiration, and skill maintenance. I like to practice music not written for the oboe and things that are way too hard for me and then I usually feel in good shape and better about playing the things that are written for the oboe. I also spend a lot of time making reeds daily, usually starting around 5 or 5:30AM. You can’t really get by as a professional oboist without doing this.

When my daughters are done with school and their homework, I practice violin and cello with them, too. I don’t play these instruments, but usually sit at the piano and lead the sessions. It’s impossible for most really young kids to organize their own practicing effectively, and we (usually) have a great time practicing together. We do all sorts of things we aren’t told to do by their teachers either, but it’s a good place to goof off and screw around. We just jointly composed a piece called “Enchiladas” and are planning our next work, “Taco Night.”

What kind of instrument are you playing now?
I was really thrown for a loop about a year and a half ago when my oboe was stolen in Montreal. It was one I had been playing for a long time, and honestly had been planning to play forever because the bore was lined and I never expected to have to replace it. It was comfortable and easy. I had a bunch of others in my house, but I never liked them as much and had grown so accustomed to the one which was stolen. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to replace. I tried many oboes by the same maker and could not find something I was happy with in the same way. The difficulty was compounded by the fact that I was making a recording six weeks after the oboe was stolen, and I really just had nothing I wanted to play or made me happy.

I ended up finding another maker just six days before I made the recording. It was a huge switch, but the instrument spoke to me in some way. It was used, had a bunch of mechanical problems and needed to be customized for me, which I had done well after the recording, once I was more familiar with the oboe. Subsequently, I bought four more instruments by this maker searching for just the right thing. Then I realized there is no “right thing” and in the process I had gained some flexibility from switching around all the time. It really forced me to be in control and present.

So I don’t really have one oboe now; I have several. I have three different makers in my house right now, and use two of them pretty regularly. I have a new model being carried over from London for me this week that I am very excited to try.

What do you like to cook for dinner?
I have been a vegetarian for 25 years, and a vegan for a good number of those. So, I don’t cook any meat. My favorite way to cook is with some sort of limitation. I hate planning in advance, using recipes, or buying ingredients with a meal in mind. I love to cook food that needs to be used up. My husband loves to grocery shop. So, our best meals tend to be something I have improvised after he has been to the Asian market or we’ve taken a trip to the farmer’s market. Usually, they involve some sort of bean, mushroom, tofu, green, or ideally, a combination of all those things.