Dr. Courtney Miller
Dr. Courtney Miller is currently Assistant Professor of Oboe at the University of Iowa where she gives private instruction, master classes and reed classes. Prior to her position at the University of Iowa, Dr. Miller taught oboe at Boston College and was faculty in the New England Conservatory’s Preparatory Department. She has also served on the faculty at Ashland University (OH), Baldwin Wallace Conservatory Outreach Department, and Cleveland Institute of Music Preparatory Department.
Dr. Courtney Miller made her solo debut with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra at age 17, and continues to be a devoted performer traveling throughout the United States and abroad as a solo, chamber, and orchestral musician. She has performed in many prestigious halls, such as Boston’s Symphony Hall and Cleveland’s Severance Hall. In addition to her solo endeavors, Dr. Miller is a core member of the prestigious international chamber ensemble, VirtuosoSoloists.
As an orchestral musician, Dr. Miller currently serves as the English hornist with the Quad City Symphony. Dr. Miller has performed frequently with numerous orchestras including the Portland Symphony (ME), the Jacksonville Symphony (FL), the Atlantic Symphony (MA), the Akron Symphony (OH), the Canton Symphony (OH), the Toledo Symphony (OH), the Erie Philharmonic (PA), the Cleveland Opera (OH), the Cleveland Pops (OH), the Wheeling Symphony (WV), the Youngstown Symphony (OH), and the Tallahassee Symphony (FL),
Dr. Miller’s primary teachers are renowned oboists and pedagogues John Ferrillo, John Mack, Eric Ohlsson and Eric Olson.
What is your earliest memories of music and what eventually led you to pursue the oboe?
Some of my earliest memories of music include both of my grandma’s playing piano when I was younger. My mom also would sing around the house all the time when I was growing up. I started Suzuki violin when I was about 3 and a half…so that is probably where many of my most vivid memories come from.
I pursued the oboe because I wanted to be involved in the music program at my school. I played the violin, but there was no orchestra at my school. The romanticized reason I play the oboe is “because of the oboe’s uniqueness ..It really called to me.” The actual reason: I could make a delightfully loud noise on the reed pretty easily.
I saw your interdisciplinary outreach project videos. What are your thoughts or approach in bringing classical music to new audiences?
This is such a good question. I fear this short answer will just scratch the surface. My approach varies quite a bit depending on my audience and the location. However, I think at the core of musical outreach is finding common ground. Finding an aspect of the music that the audience can identify with and relate to either on a musical or non-musical level. The hours that I spend in a practice room bonding with the music and the oboe gives me a much more intimate understanding of the music than many of the audience members might have. My goal when I perform is to share as much of my understanding of the music as possible with the audience. For me, musical outreach is connecting with a listener and relating to them through music.
In life I really enjoy sitting with a friend for lunch or coffee. The bonds of friendship and connections with people in my life are so dear to me. These relationships strengthen who I am and how I see the world. The desire to connect with people more deeply through music fuels me.
Favourite piece(s) to practice?
Wow! You ask some challenging questions : ) I’ve been finding the Schumann 3 Romances very soothing and nourishing of late.
How would you describe your relationship with your reeds?
Hah! A work in progress. To quote my former teacher John Mack: “Never take no from an inanimate object”.
What superpower would you like to have and why?
How did you know I love superhero comics, movies and televisions shows! Granted, I’m totally outing myself as a nerd, but oh well. It really is unavoidable. So many super powers bring such a burden to the super heroes who possess them. I play the oboe…so I’m probably already troubled enough. I think I would go for a fun-loving power such as flying. I think it would be pretty incredible to soar through the air!
If you were to give 3 tips to oboe beginners, what would they be?
Well for the very beginner I would say first and foremost. Remember the oboe is easy. Don’t pay any heed to bullies or people who tell you the oboe is hard.
1. Breathe deeply
2. Blow air freely into the oboe
3. Embrace your projection. You play the oboe; hiding is just not an option.
7. Anything else you would like to add?
“Thin the corners, clip the tip” : )
I might share a quote that I find brings perspective to me at times: