Musician Spotlight: Sarah Skuster, Principal Oboe
Before any classical music performance at the San Diego Symphony, you can hear Principal Oboe, Sarah Skuster, playing the instantly recognizable tuning note for the orchestra. But at home, you can find her snuggling and petting her kitties. Sarah, a Southern California native is in her 13th season with the San Diego Symphony and is being featured next month in J.S. Bach's Concerto for Violin and Oboe alongside San Diego Symphony Concertmaster, Jeff Thayer. We sat down recently with Sarah to catch up on her projects for the new year.
1. Tell us about your journey as a musician and how you came to play with the San Diego Symphony. I grew up in southern California in a musical household--my parents mostly listen to classical music, and my dad is a pianist and organist. I went to Interlochen Arts Academy for my senior year of high school, then spent my undergrad years at the Cleveland Institute of Music, studying with former Cleveland Orchestra principal oboist, John Mack. In my final year at CIM, I was offered an interim second oboe position with the Dallas Symphony, where I spent the next two years playing in an excellent wind section and learning all about orchestra life. After that, I moved with my then-boyfriend, now husband to New York City to work toward a master's degree at Mannes College of Music, (now part of The New School), studying with Elaine Douvas, principal oboist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. I'd been taking orchestra auditions throughout my time in Dallas, and in N.Y.C., and won the position of principal oboe in the San Diego Symphony in 2009. As an orchestral musician, you have to be prepared to end up anywhere, so I feel especially lucky that I ended up back in California!
2. Do you have a favorite San Diego Symphony memory? Many of my happy memories of the San Diego Symphony involve the camaraderie among the musicians, or some hilarious mishap in rehearsal. However, both performances in Carnegie Hall, (in 2013 and in 2023), are certainly high points during my time in San Diego so far. It was wonderful to play an acoustical space that showcased and enhanced the excellence of our orchestra.
3. What is your favorite section of the Bach Concerto for Violin and Oboe, BWV 1060, what makes it challenging, and what is it like to play alongside Jeff Thayer in such a classic piece of the repertoire? Although it's difficult to choose just one section, I think my favorite part of the Bach is the second movement--Adagio. The interplay between oboe and violin is lovely and deeply satisfying to play. Bach is challenging from an endurance standpoint, as there is really no significant time to rest, (or sometimes breath!) throughout the entire concerto. Jeff and I both studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and regularly attended Cleveland Orchestra concerts, so I feel that we have shared sensibility when approaching this music. I'm looking forward to performing together, (and on a practical level, being able to hear him well!), since we usually don't have the opportunity to play next to each other in the orchestra.
4. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions for yourself? I generally don't make serious New Year's resolutions, so along those lines, I resolve to pet my cats even more this year!
5. What are you looking forward to most with the San Diego Symphony in 2024? Without question, returning to Jacobs Music Center. I'm very excited for the orchestra to have a permanent indoor home again, and for us to continue to grow as an ensemble.
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