Jennifer Johnson studied with the American Youth Symphony from 2006 to 2011 and holds a Masters Degree from USC and an Artist Diploma from the Colburn Conservatory. In recent years, she has held the posts of principal oboe of the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, and performed as the guest principal of the Berkeley Symphony and Hong Kong Sinfonietta. Since leaving AYS, she won the Second Oboe/ English Horn audition at the Los Angeles Opera.
What does it take to join an orchestra today/How did the audition process go?
It’s a really rigorous process. The LA Opera required a recording round for which we had to submit excerpts of major repertoire. They received 40 recordings, and invited 21 candidates to the live audition – only 18 actually showed up. There were three rounds – preliminaries, semi-finals, and the final round. I was first to play the entire day. From the 18, 7 of us made it to the semi-finals, and 4 advanced to the finals, which were screened. The audition Committee was composed of approximately 8 people: Maestro Conlon, Leslie Reed, Principal Oboe of LA Opera and other members of the orchestra. This audition, from the beginning to end, took about ten hours and the deliberations lasted 45 minutes.
I am now on a 2-year probation and will participate in my first rehearsal with the LA Opera orchestra this Sunday. We’re preparing for a new opera “Dolce Rosa” by Lee Holdridge, which will be premiered at The Broad Stage.
What are the time requirements of being a member of the LA Opera orchestra?
I believe we will perform six operas. For each opera, there are about 14 services and 6 performances.
Do you have students?
I teach a little bit, but I have other activities – I won the 2nd Oboe position with Santa Barbara Symphony in January. I’m also the librarian for the Santa Barbara Symphony and for the youth orchestras at the Colburn School. With this new position at LA Opera, I’ll be able to scale back and concentrate on being an oboist.
Was AYS a good preparation?
I loved my time at AYS. I originally joined the orchestra as 2nd oboe and that was the first audition I ever won! We played great repertoire that I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to learn. I got to play with my colleagues and with musicians from all over the area – great quality and great training. I built a lot of confidence, which is so crucial when you start auditioning for jobs.
What are your dreams for the future?
I feel like I can relax, just a little bit. I always dreamt of playing the oboe for a living and I won’t stop here. I’ll continue to take auditions across the country and see what happens.
Mr. Mandell asked Jenny how AYS could have better prepared her. In response, she pointed to the rehearsal schedule, which is very spread out. The orchestra rehearses Saturday mornings during the 30-week season. The AYS schedule does not reflect a professional orchestra’s schedule, which is much tighter. Most orchestras rehearse every day during the week(s) leading up to a performance.