Dwight Parry, the principal oboist of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, recently visited SFCM for a master class. His advice, from grace-note articulations, to the art of relaxing, is below.
By Alex Heigl
Dwight Parry wants you to chill out, a musical motto appropriate for a Southern California native. Though he’s been in Ohio since his 2007 appointment as principal oboist of the Cincinnati Symphony, before that, he held the same position with the San Diego Symphony and believes his West Coast mindset can help with performance.
Parry initially studied piano, voice, and jazz saxophone, only gravitating to the oboe as a high schooler. He went on to focus on music in college, where he studied with Allan Vogel and David Weiss – the latter of whom taught him how to surf, a skill requiring dedication, focus, and a sense of fun, qualities he continues to bring to his music.
Parry’s advice, from the art of relaxing to grace-note articulations, is below.
“We should not underestimate the impact that stress has on your cognition and attention. When we become nervous we don’t think clearly; we don’t perform at our peak.”
“Find a way to channel that energy, be more giving of what you have, and let excitement carry you, but not fall into yourself and feel judged and overly concerned with a hypothetical outcome of someone hearing you play.”
“Clear the table of that junk and all you’ve got is your oboe and the music you’re going to play at that moment.”
2. Think of the characters behind the music
“Let’s remember that Mozart was an operatic composer first and foremost. That was his great passion – and any time we are playing anything in Mozart, I think of opera and the different characters that are involved. As a soloist, you can bring out those different voices.”
3. Subdivide to stay in time – even as a soloist
“It’s tricky to do when we’re playing by ourselves, right? Keeping that tempo consistent? Put all of those musical ideas into place with rock-solid tempo and rhythm.” Subdividing, Parry said, is “the secret sauce to playing in perfect rhythm.”
4. Tempo goes both ways
“I didn’t feel like you were giving us any forward inertia. Rubato is both, it’s not just meno mosso.”
5. Make every note count
“The first note of a slurred pair tends to get a little short-changed sometimes. Make it an expressive note, even though it’s fast.”
“I think grace notes should really sparkle, like ‘stage jewelry.’ If you have something two-dimensional, then those grace notes are special in some way and should come out of the texture.”
6. Whatever you’re doing, commit to it
“When you wanna bring something distinctive, commit to it. Hang on to that part of the character, then make a change.”