Yet his path to the instrument was not legit. Groovy would be more like it.
Growing up in Southern California -- his hometown is Ventura – he played piano and jazz saxophone. “That was my instrument when I started in the fifth grade. I played in dance bands around town and some in Los Angeles up until high school. I didn’t know anything about orchestra music until I had a conflict with some academic courses and the band director said, ‘You should stay in music. Just join the beginning band and try something new.’”
Parry tried the oboe and it fit right away. “It felt very natural to me. I think that is largely because of my experience with other woodwinds. As lead alto sax in a jazz band, you have to double on flute, clarinet and soprano sax. I got to know most of the woodwind family and switching to the oboe wasn’t quite as traumatic, at least for me. Maybe my parents thought it was traumatic. Beginning oboe players are not innocuous. They can take the paint off the walls.”
An honor student at Ventura High School, Parry considered numerous careers. He enjoyed the sciences. He was adept at languages. (He speaks Spanish, some Italian and some Japanese.) “Throughout high school I was very academically focused and I had a lot of interests. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I thought, if it weren’t for music, perhaps I would be some kind of diplomat, a translator or something with traveling, international politics, something like that.
“I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and then I met some very influential and important teachers, including Allan Vogel (principal oboe of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra) and John Mack (principal oboe of the Cleveland Orchestra). They showed me what could be done with the oboe. They also encouraged me and thought I had the goods to maybe make it in this field, so I decided to pursue it.”
Music was in Parry’s DNA, too. “My grandfather played boogie-woogie piano and jazz trombone and got me interested when I was young. My mother played guitar for fun.”
His grandfather had passed away when he decided to become an oboist, said Parry, “but I hope he would be pleased. There’s not much jazz oboe, though that experience has served me well in the Cincinnati Pops.”
Parry received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California and his master’s degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music. Before joining the CSO in 2007, he was principal oboe of the San Diego Symphony. He will perform Mozart’s Oboe Concerto with the CSO led by Robert Porco. Performances are at 11 a.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday at Music Hall.
A resident of Oakley, Parry, 32, found moving to the Midwest an adjustment “at first,” primarily because of the weather. “But there’s also a pleasantly slower pace of life,” he said. “People don’t seem quite as hurried to run between things and to have to deal with traffic, that kind of thing. I’ve really enjoyed that. People in the Midwest take their time a little bit more just to appreciate what’s around then, even if the weather is bad.”
And besides, he said, “cold weather is pretty good for the arts. You get in out of the cold and hear the symphony.”
Parry is also member of the newly formed Cincinnati Bach Ensemble. “We’re trying to bring the music of Bach to Greater Cincinnati. But it’s not just Bach. It’s sort of Bach and friends. The baroque era was kind of the heyday of the oboe. There’s more repertoire from that period than any other featuring the oboe.” In September, Parry performed a Vivaldi concerto with the Bach Ensemble at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Terrace Park where the group performs Bach cantatas on a regular basis. (For information, visit http://bachvespers.wordpress.com/.)
As an oboist, Parry spends a significant amount of time – “several hours per week and sometimes more” -- making reeds for his instrument. “It’s tempting to be jealous of our colleagues whose instruments more or less work when you take them out of the case. However, I prefer to view reed making as an opportunity to produce my unique sound. There’s really no other instrument -- the closest would be the bassoon, -- that allows this much personal control and variability over the instrument.
“No two oboists sound alike, and if you view that as an opportunity, it allows you to pursue your unique voice. You could say that the reed has a greater influence over how the instrument functions that the physical instrument itself.”
The cane used to make oboe reeds is river reed (the botanical name is arundo donax). “It grows in France, but like fine wines, it also grows in California, among other places in the world,” said Parry. “I’ve actually shucked cane myself in the river bottom in San Diego, and I’ve played with the Cincinnati Symphony on cane that I’ve shucked.”
Parry is an adjunct faculty member at Northern Kentucky University and also teaches privately. He enjoys “getting off the stage and bringing what we do out into the community,” he said. He contributes regularly to the CSO’s pre-concert Prelude Videos, where members of the orchestra and conducting staff comment on the music to be performed. “I’ve personally found it very rewarding, not just to appear on videos, but also to present at the Art Museum, at schools and things of this nature.”
In his spare time, Parry likes to hike. “I need to get outside and breathe the air. Red River Gorge is one of my favorite places, also the Hocking Hills area and closer to home, Mt. Airy, which has both great hiking and a good disk golf course. I play a lot of Frisbee golf and also ultimate Frisbee.”
Being one of the most visible members of the CSO has its rewards, says Parry. “It makes my day when I’m out in our community and someone walks up and says ‘I recognize you and I enjoyed your concert last night.’”
Dwight Parry performs Mozart’s Oboe Concerto with the CSO led by guest conductor Robert Porco Friday at 11 a.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday at Music Hall. Also on the program are Haydn’s “Lord Nelson Mass” and the Overture to “Don Giovanni” by Mozart. Tickets begin at $10, available by calling (513) 381-3300, or order online at www.cincinnatisymphony.org