Interview to oboist Emma Van Der Galiën.
Emma Van Der Galiën, better known on social media as @emmalovesoboe is not just a beautiful face but also a very talented oboist as you can see on her Instagram. We were amazed by all the content she creates and all her dedication to the oboe, and that is why we have decided to interview her.
- When did you start playing the oboe?
I started playing when I was 8 years old.
- Why did you choose this instrument?
Initially I had set my mind on the flute, but when I arrived to the open day of my local music school, the voluminous hairdo of the flute teacher frightened me (I was 7 at the time) and I decided I couldn’t possibly enter her classroom. At the same moment, I heard a very pleasant sound coming from the next room.Curiously I ventured over and discovered a lovely old lady with a squeaky voice that seemed to be quite delighted to show me this dark wooden tube. After a successful first attempt at the low B, the decision was easy: oboe it was. My teacher actually turned out to be not her but another person, and I studied with him until I was 17.
- How much time do you spend playing the oboe daily?
I couldn’t say that I have been consistent over the 19 years I have played. The first years were golden: up until I hit puberty I would easily play a couple of hours a day, my parents practically had to pull the oboe out of my hands! After that I hit a more rebellious period and since my parents wanted me to keep practicing regularly obviously I didn’t. If I’d play an hour a day it would be a miracle. But when at age 16 I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in music and the first stop after high school would be the Conservatory, I kind of had to get more serious about practicing. Nevertheless, I don’t think I started practicing seriously until I was in my twenties. I now realise that this was mainly because of demotivation due to my unfortunate reed journey. I changed reed-school twice quite radically (traditional Dutch to Bart Schneemann to Italian) and had to learn it all over again each time. It took me years to make decent reeds. They were always way too hard and I literally couldn’t physically play more than one or two hours a day. It would hurt my throat, my head, and it would make me feel nauseated. Luckily I am aware now that I need very soft reeds, and I am able to practice as much as I want! In important moments like audition time, this usually is up to a maximum of 4-5 hours daily, although lately I haven’t been practicing a lot. The pandemic hit the industry hard and there are little to no gigs, so little to no motivation is a natural consequence.
- Is there an oboist who inspires you in a special way?
There are so many admirable oboists and each of them inspire me in a different way. Heinz Holliger is my go-to for musical interpretation: he is the absolute king. I admire Diana Doherty very much for her out-of-this-world skills, she is the superwoman of the oboe and has some serious sass. Also Alexei Ogrintchouk has impressed me incredibly with his Dr. House-like ability to “diagnose” any student. Almost anyone instantly plays better after five minutes under his wing. The way he plays Strauss in class without the orchestra and yet, you can hear the orchestra. François Leleux is the absolute master of oboe technique. The ease with which he plays any bit of music is truly inspiring.
And like that there are many, many more, but I must say that these four inspired me in a special way.
- Your Instagram is mostly about music with a focus on the oboe, we love it! Does it take a lot of time to create and share all that amazing content?
Thank you so much! I mostly produce content either whenever I am around and about playing concerts, or when an idea strikes my mind and I start recording videos at home. The latter usually takes all of my extra time and energy over a couple of weeks, kind of like a full immersion. For example the 2018 Christmas Carol videos, or the Beethoven trio I did during the lockdown this year. I am very passionate about these projects and what makes it 100% worth it is the amazing response I get every time. When people tell me how much they enjoy my videos, it makes up for all the effort and the hours recording and trying to create something worthwhile.
- As an oboist, do you find the social networks useful?
I think that instagram can be useful as a means of sharing the cross and delight of the oboe, share tips on how to make reeds or how to stay motivated. Also it can become a source of motivation to practice, as you prepare and record a video to be posted. I would sometimes decide in the morning what I was going to post, study it all day, and then record and eventually post it. Record – listen – practice – record – would be the never-ending cycle, until I would be either satisfied or too tired to go on. I have rarely practiced with such a degree of precision unless it was for an audition. The recording part is essential, as well as the digital audience of potentially thousands. Sometimes a video carelessly thrown out there could reach up to a 100.000 people, while the carefully prepared project only 5.000. You can never know in advance, so you learn that you have to prepare each and every video in a meticulous way. It makes for great practice. It’s like preparing for a concert every day!
- What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in the world of music and wants to become a professional oboist?
I would advice to anyone to study music, but pursuing a professional career should only be reserved for a few. And just to be clear: I do not consider myself part of those few. I don’t mean to crush your dream, I only want to prevent heartache. Only pursue a professional career in classical music if the idea of not doing so makes you cry. If the thought of not playing for hours on end every day of your life makes you feel nauseated. Otherwise, don’t do it. Music is very, very lovely. But trying to get paid for making music in this century has become nearly impossible. By all means, study music, even become a professional! Just don’t count on earning a living with it. But if you really can’t resist, and if you think you have a reasonable chance, then go all in. Practice until your lips hurt, every day. Study with your head. Do all the auditions and don’t let yourself get discouraged. Every audition lost is one closer to the one you’ll win. Give it your all. Breathe the oboe. Don’t go half in like I did.
- Of all your achievements, which one makes you feel proudest?
Definitely my instagram page. The community that has formed around my particular view on the oboe, thanks to all of my lovely, lovely followers. The appreciation and support I have received here has been massively motivating and has pulled me through some dark oboe times. That’s why I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to anyone who has ever left an encouraging comment of has written me a supportive DM. Thank you to have been there.
- Your Youtube channel is very interesting too. What do you usually publish on this channel?
I am delighted! From time to time I publish some of my personal insights on basic oboe technique. There is videos on breathing, posture, embouchure, double tonguing, etcetera. It is so fulfilling to see that these videos have been able to help some people.
- Anything you want to share with Medina Reeds readers?
I would like to thank Medina Reeds for asking me to share my story, I am absolutely flattered! I think you have a lovely community that bring oboists from all over the world together, I and I am honoured that I could be a part of it!
Thank you so, so very much Emma, it has been a pleasure to talk to you through this interview.