Oboe Talk Interview: Patty Mitchell

Name: My full professional name is Patricia Emerson Mitchell but nearly everyone calls me Patty. (My three grown children call me mom. Or crazy.)

Current position or what role the oboe currently plays in your life (i.e. principal oboe, freelancer, etc.): I’m principal oboist in Opera San Jose and second oboist and English hornist of Symphony Silicon Valley. I also play for our local ballet company and freelance on occasion.

The kind of oboe you play: I play a Marigaux oboe and a Rigotaut English horn.

Website or Blog (if you have one): oboeinsight: http://oboeinsight.com

1. Tell us your story about how you found the oboe… or how it found you.

I was in sixth grade and playing both flute and piano. My older sister also played flute and I suspect my parents knew I would never be as good as she, although I’ve never been told that. I just remember my mother asking me one day if I’d like to switch to oboe. My reply was something like, “Sure, what is it?” I switched the summer between sixth and seventh grades, and I knew nearly immediately that oboe was my instrument, despite the fact that the very first reed I was handed was a horrible fibercane thing.

2. What’s your “secret recipe” for making a great oboe reed?

Oh I have no recipe at all. As I tell everyone, “I’m the World’s Worst Reed Maker!” I just play well on bad reeds when I can’t make a decent one! Sad, but true.

3. How do you motivate yourself when you run into challenges, or problems with reeds, or other oboe frustrations?

These days I just plow on through. I’ve been a professional musician since 1974, so I’ve learned — there good times and bad times and when the bad times happen I just carry on, relying on past experience and knowing I can handle it.

4. What one oboe “secret,” if someone had told it to you back when you were getting started, would have made your oboe journey even better than it’s been?

It’s a simple thing, but focussing more on air and less on embouchure and reed worries … air is so important and I spent far too much time panicking about embouchure and reeds I neglected thinking about air.

5. What’s your favorite oboe piece EVER?

Oh goodness. I can’t possibly say! I love so many works, and so much depends upon my mood. Do I dare say I really don’t care for the Mozart Oboe Concerto, though?

6. What ELSE do you enjoy doing outside of playing the oboe?

Blogging, playing around on Twitter and Facebook … generally spending tons of time on the computer! I’m also a Giants baseball fan. Last year was one fine year!

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