Q&A with Danielle McBryan, oboe

In 2014, in honor of our 50th anniversary, the Bowdoin International Music Festival created the Kaplan Fellowship Program to offer tuition free opportunities for advanced musicians at the beginning of significant careers in music. Now in its third year, the program is a unique offering geared to mature, accomplished players. Kaplan Fellows perform with artist instructors throughout the summer concert series and become familiar faces to concert goers throughout Maine. Kaplan Fellows also receive a full scholarship to cover all participation fees and housing and are sponsored by members of the community.

In advance of their arrival we sat down with these 17 highly skilled Fellows to better understand where they’re coming from, and where they’re headed in the future. The talks ranged from musical memories, to incredible sagas of how Fellows obtained their instruments. What follows is a selection from one of those conversations, with oboist Danielle McBryan.

BIMF: What are some of your earliest musical memories?

Dannielle: The first memory of music that I have is back when I was in fourth grade. The school held an assembly for all the students to see the sixth grade Jazz band and Show choir. I was completely mesmerized by the sound of the wind instruments, and couldn’t wait until I was able to play one.

BIMF: At what age did you start playing your instrument?

Dannielle: I started playing oboe when I was thirteen years old, but I have been playing music since I was 4 years old, when I started learning the piano.

BIMF: Does the instrument you play on have a story? How did it come to you?

Dannielle: My first wind instrument was actually the saxophone! I started playing it when I was about nine years old. I played a lot of instruments back then; flute, clarinet, piano…but oboe always had an alluring charm to it. What I did not realize at the time I started playing it, however, is that it would be the most difficult of them to play…

BIMF: What is the longest you’ve ever spent preparing a piece of music?

Dannielle: I don’t think I have ever stopped working on a piece I have started. I am constantly learning and improving.

BIMF: If you could play with any musician who would it be and why?

Dannielle: It is very hard to say; it would either be François Leleux or Mitsuko Uchida. In either case, it would easily be the most terrifying experience I could ever have.

BIMF: How do you make a well-known piece of music your own?

Dannielle: For me, making an often-played piece personal is a little tricky. Of course it is important to listen to recordings of the piece, but I always listen to many different interpretations in order to not become a carbon-copy of another musician. As I am listening to all of the different recordings, I pick up things here and there that I find charming, or that strike me musically. After that, the piece already sounds fairly new. But then I live with it for a little while and find my own ideas. You have to live with a piece for quite some time before you really internalize it.

BIMF: How would you explain your passion for chamber music to a non-musician?

Dannielle: I think being passionate about chamber music is completely intuitive! Chamber music allows you to connect with other people in an open and vulnerable setting. It is a place where you can come together and make new colors and feelings with any other musician in the world. In that sense it creates community. Not to mention the music making itself!

BIMF: What do you look forward to most about your time as a Kaplan Fellow?

Dannielle: Working closely with the other fellows and faculty. It is always such a pleasure to meet and play with new musicians!

BIMF: What’s next for you after the Festival? What are your career goals?

Dannielle: I hope to be able to do many different things; chamber music, of course, but also teaching, orchestra playing, event coordination…I want to diversify my career as much as possible in order to always be on a new adventure!

BIMF: What advice would you offer to an aspiring musician?

Dannielle: Being a musician is so much more than being a technical machine. You have to be able to say something. You have to live life and express your experience through your music. If you sit inside a practice room all day, I cannot imagine you will have very much to say at all. But don’t get me wrong; you also have to be a technical machine!

Check back soon for more interviews…