Musician Spotlight: Andrea Overturf, English Horn

Andrea Overturf has served as San Diego Symphony's English Horn since 2009. A Seattle native, Andrea earned her musical degrees from the Eastman School of music as well as The Juilliard School. In addition to performing with the San Diego Symphony, Andrea has also appeared as a guest soloist across the United States and Asia and participated in numerous music festivals including La Jolla Music Society's SummerFest. Andrea will also be featured in San Diego Symphony's presentation of Ned Rorem's Concerto for English Horn and Orchestra as part of the program entitled "Musical Masterpieces: Pictures at an Exhibition" on March 9th at The California Center for the Arts, Escondido. Read on as Andrea discusses her artistry both on and offstage. 

1. Tell us about your musical journey and how you came to play with the San Diego Symphony.

I started playing the oboe at the age of 10 and knew in a matter of months I wanted to play in an orchestra professionally. A few years later, my parents bought an English horn for me, and it was a natural fit. I majored in oboe performance at the Eastman School of Music and The Juilliard School and started participating in orchestral auditions for both oboe and English horn. Ironically, I never considered myself a specialist in the English horn until many years into my English horn career, and to this day I try to maintain my oboe playing at the same level as my English horn playing. I won my first job playing English horn in the Florida Orchestra where I played for 2 seasons. A close friend in the orchestra who had played in the San Diego Symphony knew that there was an English horn opening and strongly suggested I audition, telling me how great the orchestra and the city was. Being from Seattle, the idea of coming back to the west coast was appealing and I had heard great things about the orchestra. I won the audition and officially started with the San Diego Symphony in the summer of 2009.

2. Do you have a favorite San Diego Symphony memory?

One of my favorite memories was my first ever concert with the San Diego Symphony, just mere days after I won the audition, where I was called not to play English horn, but principal oboe. A couple days after I won the English horn audition, I received a phone call that the principal oboe at the time had fallen ill, and I was asked if I could fly back to San Diego from Seattle where I was on vacation and step in. I hopped on a plane, studied the recordings and scores the whole flight and arrived late the night before the dress rehearsal. I was allowed to practice and try my reeds onstage until midnight. The following morning, I sat in with the orchestra and played my first and only rehearsal which was the dress rehearsal with then San Diego Symphony Music Director, Jahja Ling and pianist, Yefim Bronfman. One of the recordings that the orchestra distributed with Jahja Ling some years ago featured a piece from this very concert, Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave Overture. So, ironically, I played oboe in the San Diego Symphony before I ever played English horn! It was nerve-wracking to say the least, but everyone was very welcoming, and it was wonderful to have a preview of my new job and meet my colleagues a few months before I “officially” started.

3. You are being featured in Ned Rorem’s Concerto for English Horn and Orchestra as part of the “Musical Masterpieces: Pictures at an Exhibition” program. As a fan of 20th century composers, what about this piece do you find most interesting or exciting to perform?

I am so honored and excited to be performing this work with the orchestra and (likely) introducing it to many people for the first time, as it’s not performed very often! I really enjoy the recurring motifs peppered across the movements and how Rorem transforms them in different treatments, rhythms and styles. It is especially apparent in the final movement, “Medley,” where he stitches fragments of all the movements together within a quasi-cadenza. It reminds me of Beethoven 9 in the final movement where he revisits the themes from all the preceding movements before settling on the "Ode to Joy" theme.

4. In addition to being a musical artist, you are also an avid visual artist and sculptor. How do these two different mediums complement your personal artistry?

I am happiest when I am creating in any form and refer to myself as a “creative hedonist!” In my life, the music and visual art balance each other almost like an artistic yin and yang. Music for me provides structure and accountability. Playing in an orchestra, all the parts must fit together and there are performance practices and disciplines that need to be observed, even when playing in a solo role, as I often do on English horn. In my style of visual art, I tend to create very freely with minimal preconceptions or sketching. I also tend to just start experimenting with materials, throwing paint on things, and seeing what speaks to me. It is very much a flow, and my best work usually comes from when I’m in this state. I think music keeps me centered and tethered to reality, while the visual art gives me a platform for my quirkiness that might not work within an orchestral setting. 

5. What are you looking forward to most with the San Diego Symphony in 2024?

I can’t wait to see the completion of Jacobs Music Center! It will be thrilling to set foot on the stage and hear the acoustics for the first time, not to mention the wonderful concerts and celebrations to follow!


Check out some of Andrea’s visual art creations on her art studio Instagram account here.  

Andrea's Official Website:

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