Ian Shafer

Ian ShaferIan is our principal oboe and assistant conductor, serves on our board, and joined QUO in September 2010.

How did you come to join QUO?
I was invited to play with QUO by Phong Ta whom I met at the break in rehearsal of the Manhattan Symphonie Orchestra.

What is your favorite place to take friends visiting NYC?
Being from Florida, I am very affected by water. Whenever friends visit I try to take them to the piers on the Hudson, or on the ferry to Staten Island. I just can’t get enough of the water.

What musical symbol best defines you and why?
I believe that the word rubato (the temporary disregard for the strict periodic pulse for expressive purposes) best describes me. Artistry is made in the subtleties; of pulse, interval, pitch, color, etc.–it is the world of grayness and poetry. I strive to live there when I make music.

How long have you been playing your instrument?
I’ve been playing the oboe for 27 years! As school students, we were offered instruments to try. After seeing the clarinets standing on their pegs, I was immediately drawn to it. However, as my last name begins with an “S,” and my band teacher began at the beginning of the alphabet when offering the students the instruments, all of the clarinets were gone and therefore began on flute. Realizing that this was not the instrument for me, my band teacher made me a deal. She offered the oboe (which looks like the clarinet) if I would take it over the summer and get a few lessons. If I didn’t like it I could come back and play clarinet in the seventh grade band. If I did, I would be the only oboist in the entire school! I took the lessons and never looked back.

I keep playing the oboe because it is so difficult! Every time I pick up the horn, or make a reed, I learn something new about how to play the oboe. Perhaps it is a new color, or a new way to use the air, it could be anything, but that sense of discovery is what keeps the oboe new and fresh for me even after so long. I find teaching also inspires new ideas and renews my passion for it.

I’ve been conducting almost as long as playing the oboe. My debut concert was given when I was thirteen years old! I conducted the school band through a piece that I wrote for it. Ever since then I have had the desire to express myself through this medium. Working with ensembles of various sizes is always a fresh new experience and since I have not conducted everything I would like, not by a long-shot, I will keep going!

Question from Bjorn: What would be your favorite piece to conduct and what would be your favorite piece to play? And why?
To conduct: I believe it would be Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It is such a monumental piece of art, a profound, masterpiece of music that it would be a true honor to conduct it. I only hope that I would do it justice.

To play: is far more difficult question to answer. As an oboe player, I have a particular fondness for the Third Symphony of Beethoven–again another profound piece of music–but I am always looking for new wonderful pieces for the oboe. I have made it a goal to commission or premiere a new work for the oboe each year. So far, I have commissioned three (Elegy and Impromptu, by James Adler; Locales by Mohammed Fairouz, and March and Reverie by Theodore Christman) and premiered several more since 2008. For more information please visit my website.