Oboe Grad Student Scores Fellowship with Chicago Symphony’s Civic Orchestra

SFCM Oboe grad student Andrew Port.

SFCM Oboe grad student Andrew Port.

Andrew Port’s position with Chicago’s Civic Orchestra, one of the nation’s premier training organizations for young musicians, is another step in his relationship with the city that began a decade ago.

By Alex Heigl

Sweet (new) home Chicago.

Oboist Andrew Port, a 2022 graduate of SFCM’s Professional Studies Certificate program, is off to the Windy City after winning a position with the Civic Orchestra, an ensemble closely affiliated with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO). A training ground for upcoming symphonic and orchestral players, the group’s members participate in rigorous training, September through June of each season with Principal Conductor Ken-David Masur and musicians from the CSO.

Port started playing clarinet in 4th grade but made the switch to oboe a year later after simply being struck by one that was hanging on a classroom wall, an experience that he may see played out by children as part of his work with the Civic Orchestra: He’s been accepted as a fellow into the Civic Orchestra, which will afford him an opportunity to work with underrepresented and underserved children in the city.

The win isn’t just a professional milestone, it’s a return to the city where Port first met his teacher at SFCM, Eugene Izotov, who was principal oboist of the CSO from 2005-2015. "I met Mr. Izotov when I was considering schools for undergrad,” Port said. “I went to Chicago and took a lesson with him and it was immediately clear to me that the way we communicated with each other and how we understood each other just clicked."

When Port finished his undergrad and master’s, it was another lesson with Izotov that brought him to SFCM. "What became evident to me was that everything I didn't have musically could and should come from him because what he had to teach was so much more than what I had absorbed at that point. I learned how to play the oboe in undergrad and post-grad, but I learned how to be a musician from Mr. Izotov.”

"It has been a joy to continue working with Andrew,” Izotov said. “His relentless dedication, combined with talent, pushes him to grow further, explore and test new limits, and find more confident ways to express himself. I am thrilled that Andrew is joining the oboe section of Chicago Civic Orchestra, and wish him much continued success on this journey.”

Port does allow that some aspects of the fellowship are “nerve-wracking,” saying it’s unique in that fellows are expected to create outreach and educational programs for kids and that the Civic Orchestra leaders are “going to be giving feedback and teaching us how we can do that better.”

First and foremost, he says, he wants to get better at community outreach and organizing. But he’s already sketched out a remarkably thought-through concept for the programming aspect of his fellowship. "I think one of the ways to cultivate a broader audience for classical music is to bank more heavily on the mediums where the music is most heard. So for orchestral music, where are you most likely to hear that? Film and video games, which were the gateways for me as a child. So I want to create a program where you take the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, the Warcraft soundtrack, Zelda, whatever, and you piece together where those composers got their inspirations."

"For John Williams, for example, you could have a program of the music of Superman, and then highlight Bruckner's Fourth Symphony. Or Star Wars and Holst. And then, you say, ‘Well, if you like this Holst, you might like R. Vaughan Williams. That way, you send them on their own journey of discovery that starts with what they already know and like."

But the nitty-gritty of his work aside, Port is excited about the journey, which is set to start in September 2022. "I love Chicago. And heading there is a fun bookend to this chapter of my life because it's where I met Mr. Izotov and now he's sending me out of the nest to go back."

Learn more about studying woodwinds at SFCM.