“There is always more to learn and I learn from everyone around me. I especially love the Philharmonic wind section. We get along so well.”
Reeds are the bane and the beauty of the oboe. The capricious mouthpiece is at once notoriously temperamental and capable of producing hauntingly lovely tones. And so, for undaunted Noah Kay, the Philharmonic’s principal oboist, having a cheerful, philosophical outlook is at the core of his life as a musician.
That life began in a small town in New Jersey, in a home that hummed constantly with classical compositions interpreted by Noah’s mother, father, and others. Early on, Noah studied piano and double bass, but was more focused on a career in dentistry. When he was 14, his father, a chamber orchestra clarinetist, invited him to go along on a European tour. In Vienna, Noah heard an oboe soloist who was to be his first spark of passion for the instrument.
Upon returning to the States, Noah’s family supported him in his intent to study oboe and pursue music as a career. He rapidly excelled enough to qualify him, first for entry into Juilliard’s Pre-College Division and then the Eastman School of Music where he earned his undergraduate degree. Noah went on to apply for admission to the Yale School of Music where he was awarded a master’s degree in 2019.
During his fast-track educational years, Noah realized that, for the oboist, the journey to virtuosity is markedly different from other instruments. Noah observes, “It can be a tremendously stressful instrument because of our reed-making plight, but I learned how to stay upbeat and positive.” Wise masters at both Eastman and Yale helped Noah develop the mental resilience that serves him to this day. “I wouldn’t be who I am without these teachers.”
While finishing his degree at Yale, he auditioned for the principal oboist with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic. “It was my first orchestra audition, so I had no expectation that I would be successful.” When he won the principal position, both Yale and the Philharmonic cooperated on scheduling so that he could fulfill his obligations to both. Today, as one of the Philharmonic’s youngest performers, Noah enjoys camaraderie within the orchestra, especially the wind section, and has quickly adapted to the outdoorsy Colorado lifestyle. He was even inspired to ally with two other Philharmonic members to create an intensive, one-week woodwinds camp called Summer Winds, which kicked off successfully this past summer.
“In years to come, I hope to grow this camp as an option for local musicians to learn about and play chamber music.”