Amanda Talley is the second oboist and associate English horn of the New Mexico Philharmonic.
Amanda graduated in May from Southern Methodist University, where she received her Master’s degree. But in March, before she graduated, she auditioned for, and won, the position with the New Mexico Philharmonic where she is about to begin her first season with them. Learn more about Amanda’s experience from playing oboe in the school orchestra to landing her first professional symphony job!
TTN: Amanda, how did you get started on oboe?
AMANDA: I was nine years old and in elementary school. My dad suggested the oboe, and no one else wanted to try it, so I figured I would. I told my band director and she was pleased.
TTN: Prior to taking up oboe, had you had any musical training?
AMANDA: I started with the Yamaha music classes when I was five or so, and I also took a couple of years of piano so I was already acquainted with music and reading music by the time she got to fifth grade with the band class.
TTN: How did you determine you wanted to make music, and the oboe a career?
AMANDA: I was 14 in my freshman year of high school and toward the end of that year I decided to spend my life in music. From that point on I worked towards getting into a good music school.
TTN: So you did play oboe all through high school?
AMANDA: Yes, I was lucky enough to go to a high school with a symphony orchestra directed by Frank Diaz. I also played in a local youth orchestra, directed by Joseph Kreines, which introduced me to wonderful repertoire. Those experiences played a big role in my choice to want to follow through with an orchestral career. My director was also very encouraging. He took the orchestra to the Midwest clinic in Chicago one year, and that was an inspiring trip for me. I’ve always appreciated his support. Then as a coincidence, we left my high school at the same time and he ended up doing his doctorate while I was in my undergraduate degree at Florida State.
TTN:So your major was in Oboe Performance?
AMANDA: Yes, at Florida State my major was Oboe Performance where I studied with Dr. Eric Ohlsson. Then I did my Master’s at Southern Methodist University in Dallas where I studied with Erin Hannigan.
TTN: Did your playing change a lot between your bachelor’s degree and your master’s?
AMANDA: Choosing to study an instrument in school is not to be taken lightly. At a university especially, you have to do just as much academia work in addition to your instrument studies. I was lucky enough to have two wonderful teachers, who dedicated as much time as they possibly could to seeing all of their students prosper. In a Master’s degree, luckily there is (a little) more time to spend on detailed practice, and I was lucky enough to study with Erin Hannigan. It was wonderful to hear her play every week with the Dallas Symphony…and she gives every single one of her students 110%. And don’t get me started on how much I love her reeds!
TTN: id you initially have the goal of being a part of a professional orchestra?
AMANDA: I feel very lucky and grateful that I won an orchestra job right out of school. It is not something that you go into with that expectation, because it is very tough, and there are very few jobs out there. I feel very lucky, but I did work hard, of course.
TTN: Let’s talk a little bit about the professional orchestra audition experience. How many orchestras did you audition for before you won this job?
AMANDA: The audition was my third professional audition. I had done many other auditions for schools, festivals, etc., but job auditions are a whole other unique experience.
TTN: Do you know how many people put in resumes and were able to audition for this job?
AMANDA: 25-30, I’m guessing.
TTN: How did the audition process work?
AMANDA: It was a blind audition. We were all asked to play the same excerpts and we were each given a number and played behind a screen. There is a panel of five people and their backs are facing toward you and there is a screen between you. They never see you and you do not speak, there is a runner to help you with any questions you may have. You are referred to by a number you are assigned.
TTN: How did they narrow down and eventually choose you?
AMANDA: They narrowed the candidate number down to 5 after the first round, and then finally down to two candidates after we played English horn in another round. In the finals, we played with the NMP’s principal oboist, Kevin Vigneau.
TTN: How do young musicians find out about orchestral jobs?
AMANDA: I am a union member of the American Federation of Musicians and each month they send out a paper that lists openings. You may also hear through the grapevine, or there is a website called www.musicalchairs.info and they do a good job too.
TTN: Do you have any advice for those just starting out?
AMANDA: To not ever expect a day of perfection. There is always a new challenge or struggle, we are all out there struggling no matter what level we are on.