Mary Ashley Barret
Mary Ashley Barret is the Professor of Oboe at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and has been on the faculty since 1998. A native of North Carolina, she holds the principal oboe position with the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra in addition to being a frequent performer throughout the southeastern USA. She has appeared as soloist with the Salisbury Symphony, the Florida State Wind Orchestra, the UNCG Orchestra, Symphonic Band, and Wind Ensemble, the Pottstown Symphony Orchestra, and has presented numerous guest recitals and master classes throughout the United States, Caribbean, Central America, Canada, Germany, China, New Zealand and Australia. A chamber music aficionado, Barret performs regularly with the Cascade Wind Quintet, the EastWind Trio d'Anches, the EastWind Ensemble, and has spent several summers playing chamber music in the Adirondacks of New York.
Some highlights of her career include co-hosting the International Double Reed Society's 32nd annual conference in 2003, a Carnegie-Hall recital debut with the EastWind Trio d'Anches in 2005, a ten-day recital tour to China with the EastWind Quintette d'Anches in 2008, and most recently being invited as faculty at the Brevard Music Center for the Summer Festival of 2010. Barret's degrees include the Doctor of Music from Florida State University, the Master of Music from Baylor University, and the Bachelor of Music from the Eastman School of Music. She can be heard on Live from Luzerne recordings with the Luzerne Chamber Players (NY), Out of the Woods, French reed trio music with TreVent, The Russian Clarinet (with EastWind Trio d'Anches), EastWind Trio d'Anches Looks East (Reed Trios of Eastern Europe), Chamber Music of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (pub. by Centaur Records). Barret's current research focus has been recording music by women composers, the first CD of which was released Spring 2012, published by Centaur Records. Barret is an artist/clinician for Buffet Group USA.
What are some of your most memorable musical projects?
My most fun projects have been touring or recording with some of my chamber ensembles. I have had the good fortune to play in many wonderful groups over the past thirty years--TreVent (a reed trio); Cascade Winds (a traditional woodwind quintet); and my current faculty groups that perform under the name of the Eastwind Ensemble. This particular group has been either a reed trio or reed quintet, and has traveled to Canada, New Zealand, Australia, China, Germany, and all over the United States.
We have a CD with the Trio version of Eastwind, "Eastwind Looks East", in which we commissioned a piece of music written by Hidas especially for this group. It was the last piece he ever wrote, and he was able to listen to our performance the week before he passed away. He was so happy to hear it.
What inspires you now, musically or otherwise?
I get inspiration from many sources: being outside; spending time in the summer with my sisters; watching my students do well; performing great orchestral works; and attending concerts.
Any mental and/or physical exercises you recommend to oboists for optimal performance?
Physical exercise is a great way to get the jitters out of your performing. I make it a habit to exercise every day, even if it is just walking a few miles. If you have a big performance coming up, be sure to do exercises that elevate your heart rate for an extended period of time--running, swimming, or biking is a great way to do this.
Could you tell us about the background of your research focus on recording music by women composers?
Finding new compositions by Women has been a wonderful project! Living composers are so eager to have their music performed, and they all know each other fairly well. I felt that women have been underrepresented, and making the CD was a small way to showcase some of these talented musicians. Once you make a few contacts, it is relatively easy to get a long list of other possible contacts to get started. I spent several months gathering scores and talking to each composer about their music. For the recording, I really wanted to feature a variety of sounds--some solo oboe things with piano, and some chamber works with strings and/or winds. I had to narrow my list of possibilities to the traditional CD length of @65 minutes. I also had to get permission to record the music--happily, everyone was very glad to give their support to this project.
Going forward, what are some ways you propose to promote and support women composers?
I certainly feature a woman composer on every concert I give. I'm also in the process of commissioning some works by a few select women to be performed by a new ensemble of all women musicians. We hope to premier these pieces in late 2017.
If you weren’t an oboist, what do you think you’d be doing?
I think I would still be a music teacher of some sort--music is such a strong part of who I am, I can't imagine my life without it. If I was to choose something away from music...perhaps a writer.
Anything else you would like to add?
I will leave you with my favorite quote by W.A. Mozart:
"Music alone has the secret of making me smile and touching me to the bottom of my soul." Never give up on your music making. You may have some bumps and lumps along the way, but performing with others is such an uplifting experience--go out and share your music!