Ian Wisekal, a native of Long Island, NY, joined the Lamont faculty in 2013. He serves as Associate Principal Oboe of the Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra, and previously held the same position with the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra. He can be heard playing principal oboe on that orchestra's recording of Cofresí, which was nominated for a Latin Grammy.
Ian received his bachelor of music degree with high distinction from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY and his master of music degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, earning full scholarships at both institutions. He has performed at the Sarasota Music Festival, the festival at the Banff Arts Centre (Canada), the Music Masters Festival of Japan, the Casals Festival of Puerto Rico and the AIMS festival in Austria, and has given several concerts at Carnegie Hall. In 2012, Ian traveled to study with David Walter at the Paris Conservatory, thanks to a grant from the Pro-Symphony Association of Puerto Rico. He is an active performer throughout Colorado, playing frequently with the Colorado Symphony and with professional ensembles across the Front Range. His major teachers include Richard Killmer and Erin Hannigan.
An avid educator, Ian has taught students of all ages in group and private-lesson settings, and served as a Teaching Artist with El Sistema Colorado for two years. He has given master classes in New York, Texas, and at the University of Northern Colorado, was on the faculty of the Symphonic Experience Program of Puerto Rico, and appeared as guest artist at the University of Wyoming Double Reed Day and for the weeklong Oboe Workshop at the University of Costa Rica. His students have won local and state competitions, and have earned scholarships to top music schools, including Eastman.
What or who were your early passions and influences?
I started studying music at a very young age, taking piano lessons from the age of five, singing in children’s choirs, and composing my own music (I loved Mozart and Shostakovich). Luckily, my parents were very encouraging, and when I started playing oboe in sixth grade (age 11), my private teachers and school music directors were very indulgent of my curiosity and creative exploits.
Could you tell us more about your work with El Sistema Colorado?
El Sistema Colorado is just one of over 1,000 programs worldwide inspired by the Venezuelan system of the same name. It seeks not only to teach music to underserved youth, but also to promote self-esteem and instill the values of teamwork, community, and social responsibility. I taught beginning and intermediate woodwinds to middle schoolers, and in turn they taught me a lot about what it’s like to grow up without the kind of opportunities I took for granted.
Any common misconceptions about the oboe that you would like to debunk?
Oboe is often considered one of the most difficult instruments to play, but if you have a decent reed and your hands aren’t too small, it’s just as easy to start on oboe as it is on any of the other woodwinds. A more important misconception, which is even more common, is that the oboe is the bassoon.
What is your favourite concerto and why?
I fell in love with the Vaughan Williams concerto when I was 13, and have gotten to perform it twice with orchestra. It’s gorgeous music – song, dance, and shepherd calls – and it never fails to move me deeply, especially the third movement. A trombone player said to me after one performance, “That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.” Talk about an underrated composer!
When you are not playing the oboe, what do you enjoy doing?
Outside of other musical things, I love to travel and explore and do a bit of amateur photography. There’s an awful lot of scenery to take in here in Colorado! But my most common leisure activity is reading: novels, short stories, poetry, and some non-fiction thrown in for good measure.
What would you say are the most important approaches to introducing beginners to learning the oboe?
This is a great question. First, find (or make!) an appropriate reed: very free-blowing but with a sturdy enough piece of cane that it can’t easily be bent/squeezed closed. Embouchure, reed placement, breathing and tonguing should be described as simply as possible, and with a lot of repetition. Have them repeat each step a few times, and make sure they can describe what they’re doing in their own words. Starting with just the reed – or even without the reed! – can be a great way to begin, especially with a young student.
Anything else you would like to add?
We’re lucky as oboists to be able to play a huge variety of repertoire that spans several centuries. It’s important to learn as early and as much as possible the appropriate performance practices of each of these time periods. A wealth of material is available on Baroque styles, and more and more is emerging regarding the manner of playing Classical and Romantic-period music. It’s so much more fulfilling to play (and much more interesting to hear) discrete styles in Vivaldi, Mozart, Schumann, Poulenc and beyond than to play everything the same way.