Musical Musings

Festival Fellows Share Favorite Experiences and Memorable Moments of SMF 2019

As the 2019 Sarasota Music Festival draws to a close on Saturday, the four Fellows of this year’s oboe studio share their most treasured experiences from their time at the Festival. Read on to hear about their memorable Festival moments and how these talented young women plan to spend the rest of their summer.

Have you made any cool discoveries or encountered anything unexpected while you’ve been here in Sarasota?

Jillian Kouzel: Wandering around downtown, we found out there's so much good live music! I went to college for my undergraduate degree in Austin, so Sarasota actually feels like another live music capital. Everywhere you pass by, you can get jazz, R&B, folk, and of course karaoke. It's really alive here.

Jillian Kouzel is from San Antonio, TX and will begin postgraduate studies at the University of Michigan this fall. After the Sarasota Music Festival, she’ll head to Festival Napa Valley to study and perform with the orchestra of the Blackburn Music Academy.

Jillian Kouzel

What’s your favorite composition that you’ve studied here at the Festival, and why?

Jillian Honn: I think my favorite was doing the Francaix Dixtuor. I felt very spoiled to have that opportunity to work with faculty and a lot of Fellows, too. And it was nice to do the piece as a whole, especially since it is not very often performed. Most people hadn't even heard of it! How well-received it was at the concert kind of renewed my hope for music. My takeaway was to go for it if you want to try something new because you never know—people may love it.

Jillian Honn hails from Dallas, TX, and will attend the Yale School of Music in the fall. Recently she decided to shift her focus from a music librarian career back into oboe performance. After this performance immersion in Sarasota Music Festival (her second year here), she will spend the rest of the summer in preparation to begin postgraduate studies at Yale this fall.

Jillian Honn

Julia Simpson: I had a cool opportunity to play Beethoven’s Octet in E-flat Major with Dr. Nancy Ambrose King, the oboe faculty artist for week two, and she also coached my ensemble with other Fellows. So I got to play with her, and then play for her, pretty much every day. I met her five years ago at the MPulse Summer Performing Arts Institute at the University of Michigan, so it was like a mini-reunion. It was just so wonderful to be with her.

Julia Simpson, from Oconowomoc, WI, studies at Rice University. After Sarasota Music Festival, she’ll spend the second week of July in Birmingham, AL at the Southern Oboe Intensive, where she’ll help middle and high school students hone their reed-making skills.

Julia Simpson

What’s your most memorable moment from a Festival masterclass or concert?

Kate Wegener: Well, the first week I got to play in the orchestra for the Mozart oboe concerto. My teacher from Juilliard, Nathan Hughes, was playing the solo. I've worked with him on that piece so much, so to see him put what he’s told me into practice was a very cool experience.

Kate Wegener, from Easton, CT, completed her freshman year at The Juilliard School this spring. She will take the rest of her summer to prepare for next semester at Juilliard, which involves plenty of solo practice and, as for every oboist, hours of reed-making.

Julia Simpson

Julia S. It didn't really pertain to any of us, but at one masterclass a 14 or 15-year-old oboist from the Sarasota area came with his teacher, who plays in the Sarasota Orchestra. I have been to many masterclasses; I've been that kid. But it was really cool to be there and see the other side. He was just so excited, asking questions, and it was wonderful to see that.

Jillian H. I think what's nice about this festival is that there are three different faculty members, a different perspective every week. The first week, I learned about a lot of fundamental things that I really wanted to work on. Then the second week, I learned how to be a little bit freer. And then, this last week, I’ve gotten to study with my teacher with whom I'm starting in the fall, Stephen Taylor. So the whole Festival has given me three different perspectives on things that can help me grow.

In the past few weeks, have you hit any breaking points—or breakthroughs?

Kate W. I've been trying to open up my playing musically. This past year, constantly playing and practicing in school, I worked a lot on technical aspects, very minuscule things. You sometimes lose track of the bigger picture. And I think when you have an opportunity like this to get through lots of repertoire, play with different people, and work with different teachers, it allows you to see more of that bigger picture and just get back into the music.

Jillian K. I feel like what we're doing is very important to the people around here, and that's really refreshing. I'm revitalized! I feel inspired by the people who came to our concerts and even our masterclasses because of their support and appreciation.

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