This week we put the spotlight on Jillian Honn, an oboe performance major at the Eastman School of Music. Jillian sat down with us to talk about her experience learning the oboe, auditioning for music schools, and how her band directors have made a huge impact on her life.
Jillian is an extremely accomplished oboe player who got the majority of her music education in and around Dallas, TX.
1. What made you decide to play the oboe/participate in band throughout middle school and high school?
To put it simply, I decided to participate in music (starting in middle school) because of the sense of community. I wasn’t raised playing the piano or with big dreams of becoming a star. I sincerely just wanted to find a supportive niche in which I could express myself freely in a way that positively affected those around me. Sure, when I chose the oboe at the ‘instrument petting zoo’ before the 6th grade, the motivation I just articulated wasn’t quite that… articulate in my mind, but it quickly developed as soon as band class started. Furthermore, the reason I continued band through high school onto the undergraduate education I am currently pursuing is that I was blessed enough to have educators who stuck to the values of community. After all, music is not an art reserved for the elite, rather, an experience that should be accessible and enjoyed universally for the purpose of catharsis. But that’s a whole other tangent…
2. How did you get through the audition process when you were applying for various colleges and conservatories? Any tips for students who will be going through the process soon?
Auditions are hard. Plain and simple. No matter who you are, where you’re from, or where you are in the spectrum of musical accomplishments, there will be struggles. Don’t let that discourage you!
The biggest tip I have for students beginning to think about auditioning for colleges and conservatories is to do your homework. Don’t just apply to a school because that one really good trumpet player who graduated from your school four years ago went there. The reason there are so many different schools out there is because there are so many different players! You want to find the right place for you. Ideally getting a lesson with the teacher before auditioning would be a great way to see if things would be a good fit, but we all know traveling around the US can get pricey, so ask questions! Talk to everyone you can, and don’t take one person’s opinion of a school as fact.
Another tip for the audition process is to apply to a variety of places. Although we all have our hearts set on that one dream school, it may just not be in the cards at that moment in time. I had no idea I would end up where I did, but I am reminded every day of how lucky I am to have this incredible opportunity.
Finally to address the toughest question of all: How to get through the audition process itself. When preparing for the audition, learn your music like nobody’s business. After all, music is about the music, not the technique. The focus should be on the special moments you create out of ink splotches on a piece of paper. Sure, no one is perfect- mistakes are most certainly forgivable, but if you don’t know your notes the chances of being comfortable enough to express your inner music is less likely. Those who try to be musical and blip in technique are much preferred over those who play all the right notes but express nothing. Remember- we are musicians not technicians. It’s okay to be vulnerable. That’s when the true catharsis happens.
3. What has been your favorite musical experience or performance so far?
This may be a 'cheater’ answer to the question, but there is no way I could possibly choose one single musical experience. The beauty of music is the diversity. From marching band to baroque opera to soloing with an orchestra, I have gained something valuable from every opportunity. The important thing is to be open minded to all art forms and expressions in order to find your niche (or many niches in my case), and, as a result, to have so many favorite musical experiences that you could never choose one.
4. Have you had any mentors or teachers that have made a substantial impact on your musical career?
I have absolutely had mentors that had a substantial impact on my musical career. Like I mentioned earlier, I was not raised playing music from a very early age, my 'career’ started when I chose to participate in band in middle school. My band directors at that time had a huge responsibility to show me what makes music so incredible, and they most certainly accomplished that. I always wonder what would have happened to me if I wasn’t so lucky to grow up where I did. I am so thankful for how I began as well as for the consistent nurturing I received along the path to ultimately becoming a music major. I could go on forever about how each band director and private teacher and peer has mentored me in music appreciation and passion, but I unfortunately know this is not true for everyone. Now that I have the opportunity to pursue a career in both performing and teaching, it is not only my goal but my responsibility to create the healthy music environment that I was raised in for as many students out there as I can.
5. What do you hope to do once you graduate?
As a music performance major, I absolutely want to try to find a way to keep performing. Whether that means I am the principal oboist of a major symphony, third oboe in a small town, or simply just playing chamber music with my peers, I want all of my work to be for the community. Although I’m not an education major, teaching lessons, coaching chamber music, and just all around helping prepare young musicians for the future is something I find absolutely necessary for my career. I have been lucky enough to receive the education, therefore it is my responsibility to share it with those around me who maybe didn’t get the opportunity, or may have the chance in the future.