As the orchestra fellow… – Geoffrey Johnson

I guess I should first introduce myself as the first person to have won the African-American Fellowship with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.  I have been asked to keep a blog to let you know what is going on in my life and how this new program has enhanced me, which I am thrilled about!  I will not bore you with my resume, but I will say that I am a recent graduate on oboe from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where I was fortunate enough to study with John Mack, as well as the new principal oboist of Cleveland Orchestra, Frank Rosenwein.

I say this because being at the institute in Cleveland has tremendously
shaped the musician that I have grown to be. I did my masters at the
institute, and I’ve always felt that your masters degree is the time
where you really come into yourself as a musician. The time where you
get to hone your skills, and really buckle down on practice and
creating, and standing by your OWN musical ideas, as much as Mack would
let me! Not to take anything away from my first degree, which gave me
tremendous help on technique, reeds, and the fundamentals of being not
only a musician, but an oboist as well.

I feel that this fellowship
program is an extension of my masters program, in that, I have an
AMAZING opportunity to get to know myself as an artist. What i mean by
that is that I truly have time to practice, and come into my own
thoughts and ideas about music and excerpts. One of the major things
that I came away from John Mack with was to not be afraid to have a
point of view as a musician. Right or wrong, you should have a musical
point of view, and try to convince others that yours is not only the
right way, but the only way!

This time that I have in Pittsburgh has
elevated my thoughts in that direction. I mean really, that’s all an
audition is. Proving that you can play something and make it SOUND
correct. (at the very minimum) Thus far this season, I have had the
opportunity to work one on one with the oboists and english hornist in
the section, and get their comments on excerpts and reeds. I have also
been able to play with the orchestra on some outreach programs, and
will be playing on a subscription concert within the next few weeks.
This has been most beneficial to me because it has allowed me to see
just how much effort goes into preparing for single rehearsals, as well
as the amount of tone that needs to be produced to "cut through" an
orchestra with such talented musicians.

I believe that this has been
the most important thing for me to gain so far. I always considered
myself to have a nice sound; very pleasant and pleasing to the ear, but
the opportunity to play with the orchestra has let me know that my tone
has to be substantial enough to be heard in the house, over a string
section and brass section. Some of my lessons too, have been focused on
this. Leaving the institute, it was enough to have a somewhat smaller
sound due to the size of our facility, but in this top tier
professional orchestra, my sound had to change to accommodate not only
the orchestra, but the hall.

The mock auditions that I have had have
been most useful as well, giving me realistic feedback from people who
would be, and have been on audition panels. I can hear changes in my
playing already that excite me to no end. I am encouraged to keep on my
path and take auditions, work on technique, and in general, progress.
This past week I was able to sit in the recording both as the orchestra
finished up their work on the Brahms symphonies. I loved being able to
hear it from the side of the audio engineers. 

Seeing the career that
lies ahead in my future, up close and personal, is something keeps me
motivated everyday. As a student in conservatory, it’s easy to get
frustrated and not see the silver lining, but here, I see it everyday,
and know that it is very obtainable for me. I have several auditions
lined up for naer future and am constant preparation for them. For now,
I must run to gouge some cane!

2 Responses to “As the orchestra fellow… – Geoffrey Johnson”

  1. Linda Fischer says:

    Hey, Geoffrey
    It is good to read how you are taking these growth opportunities and squeezing everything you can out of them; that is the mark of a serious contender! Keep on with that, and best wishes and blessings in your endeavors….Linda

  2. Andrew says:

    The fellowship could not have gone to a more deserving player. Congrats!
    Best,
    ARS

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Nov 9