Minnesotan oboist Joe Peters soars with New World Symphony

by Elena See, Minnesota Public Radio
April 7, 2014

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — So, what's the best career advice you've ever received? Reach for the stars? Be courageous and daring? Don't try to do everything? Maybe, like oboist Joseph Peters, it wasn't advice you received so much as a warning.

"She said, 'I think you can do it, but you have to know that it's not going to be easy. I feel it's my job to warn you about this.' So I had plenty of advance warning that it was going to be difficult — but it just always seemed like the right thing."

Peters is a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and this is his third year with the New World Symphony. It was one of his first oboe teachers who offered him that warning, but Joe says he never really wanted to do anything else.


It just always seemed like what I wanted to do. I started in fifth grade playing the oboe and I started on the oboe. I know a lot of people who play oboe start on something else, the clarinet....I always wanted to play the oboe, not sure why. We listened to Peter and the Wolf a lot in elementary school and I liked the sound of it. I never wanted to play anything else.


Besides performing, Joe is committed to teaching. He teaches a few private students at the New World Center and he also is on the faculty at the SoBe Institute of the Arts in Miami Beach. And if performing and teaching weren't enough, Joe is also a conductor.

"It's always something I've enjoyed, always something I've been doing along with the oboe. I started wanting to be a conductor very early on, very soon after I started playing. I always had teachers who encouraged it...and then, later on had great conducting teachers who have helped me a lot. Even though I don't have a degree in conducting, I never went through a program to do conducting in school, I've had phenomenal teachers and lots of opportunities. It's just another way to engage with the music, looking at scores a new way and seeing new things.

"I'd love to do more conducting — I love playing in orchestra, I've been taking auditions, I've loved New World — I've also done a lot of chamber music. A lot of the summer festivals that I do are chamber-music oriented. I'd love to find a way to balance these things. At some point it doesn't become practical to do everything all the time ... but just with the way things are developing in the classical music world, it's nice to be able to do some different things and have some different options, pursue different projects.


And what better place to pursue those different conducting projects and develop those conducting skills than at the New World Symphony with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas?

"The first thing I did, I guess, was a Haydn symphony last year, on a musician organized program. Haydn's Symphony No. 60, which is just — it's hilarious and wonderful and charming. [Tilson Thomas] worked with me a bit on that. His approach as a conductor is just very much just in service to the music — which is the same in the orchestra, and it's the same way I try to approach my own instrument. So, working with him has been very easy, both as an instrumentalist and as a conductor."

Over the past three years, Joe says he's learned a lot from Tilson Thomas, from his own students, and, of course, from his talented New World Symphony colleagues.

"I mean really, it's the same as anywhere when you're in an orchestra: be a good colleague, try to play it better the next time. Whatever happened in the morning rehearsal, try and do it better in the afternoon, play it better at the concert, play it better at the next concert. Just always looking at little things you can do to improve your own playing and keep moving forward and not to let your artistry go flat. Developing that here has been really good, just a strong sense of artistry."

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