All eyes turned to the front as D. Eric Ohlsson took the stage of Souers Recital Hall and moved into the center of the warm spotlights. Clear, bright-sounding trills from his instrument fluttered out through the intimate space of the recital hall.
As part of Lorée Oboe Day at Miami, Ohlsson, a professor of Oboe from Florida State University, performed a guest recital on Saturday afternoon.
Oboe Days are fairly common events for university music departments. They provide opportunities to take in performances from professionals, participate in masterclasses and celebrate this acerbic-toned and incredibly difficult-to-master instrument.
The oboe is notorious for being more challenging than other woodwind instruments because it uses a double-reed and is so hard to tune that entire orchestras typically tune to the oboe rather than the other way around.
Ohlsson was accompanied by a pianist as he played his way through ten pieces that ranged from slow and haunting sonatas to more upbeat yet delicate compositions, all of which sounded precise and demonstrated his years of experience.
The audience — which included teenagers and middle schoolers, along with Miami students and faculty — all watched with rapt attention.
When Ohlsson finished his performance, Miami Oboe Professor Andrea Ridilla, who organized the event, took the stage.
“[Ohlsson] enjoyed his time so much that he has already agreed to come next year,” Ridilla announced.
Ridilla then performed as part of an oboe duet and encouraged the middle and high school students in attendance to consider attending the Miami Department of Music summer camps.
After the duet, the audience was invited to stay and watch a masterclass featuring two students from Ball State University, two students from UC’s College Conservatory of Music and one musician from Cleveland.
Each performer presented one piece and Ohlsson critiqued it, discussing technique and intonation. He suggested which notes to articulate and which phrases to play more softly. At one point Ohlsson paused to ask Ball State student Noah Johnson if he was afraid of high notes.
“Uh, a little bit?” Johnson responded before attempting his piece again.
“That’s it!” Ohlsson praised after the next attempt.
Ohlsson then advised aspiring musicians in the crowd to try a few of the highest notes they can play everyday while practicing, so as to grow more comfortable with the top of their ranges.
Ohlsson’s expertise was highly valued in this room where enthusiasm for the oboe trumped all other excitements.
Ridilla believed the event was a large success.
“[It was] a fabulous way to highlight the instrument and recruit music students for Miami,” she said.