Meet a Musician: Kathryn Greenbank

Meet a Musician: Kathryn Greenbank

Minnesota Orchestra member since: 2018
Position: Associate Principal Oboe
Hometown: Quincy, IL
Education: Curtis institute of Music 

When did you know you would make a career in music?
When I won my first job. It is a very competitive field, so if you’re lucky enough to win a job that pays for a living, it makes the decision easier. 

Why did you choose the oboe?
I chose the oboe because my older brother—who played sax in the band—said I could get in the band because they needed oboes. I really didn’t know what it was!

Tell us about your professional journey thus far.
I was very fortunate to get my first job here in Minnesota in the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra at age 22, and I played there for 36 years. Then I had a tremendous opportunity to move over to the Minnesota Orchestra. I love the great music-making and the positive culture that exists here. I feel support from everyone. 

What is one of your career highlights?
One of my favorite experiences was playing the Bach Double Concerto for Oboe and Violin with Pinchas Zukerman. Standing up there next to his energy and tremendous chamber music-making was a thrill I will never forget. It almost felt like he was playing my part, too, and encouraging me to go with him. It is hard to describe. 

Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
My advice for aspiring musicians is that you really have to love doing this in order to put in the amount of work and personal sacrifice it takes to play at a professional level. There are a lot of ups and downs in this profession, but if you love it you will always be successful, no matter how your career develops.

Kathryn Greenbank (center) playing principal oboe at the Season Opening concerts in September 2018, with oboist Julie Gramolini Williams 

What is your favorite oboe solo in the orchestral repertoire? There are so many beautiful oboe solos! It’s hard to focus on one, but the solo in the second movement of the Barber Violin Concerto is one of those solos for me that just feels like "I am so fortunate to be here doing this right now.”

What is most challenging about being an oboist?
Reeds, Reeds, Reeds!!!!! 

Do you have any advice for new audience members?
My advice for anyone is to not have any expectations about listening. Just let the music come to you and embrace you. Sometimes you like it, sometimes you don’t—and that’s okay. But the more you expose yourself to listening, the more you hear.

Do you have other performances coming up outside of Minnesota Orchestra?
No, I don’t have any other upcoming performances right now. I am just enjoying playing the new repertoire here with the Minnesota Orchestra. Many pieces I am playing now are for the first time. It is a challenge, but I am loving it. 

What are some of your hobbies?
Aside from the enforced hobby of reed making, I have 3 animals: one beagle/Bassett mix dog who loves to “sing" with me when I warm up, and two cats (one who thinks I am hurting the dog when he sings, and jumps in my lap to stop me from playing). It’s amazing I get any work done. I also love to hike both in the mountains and on walks with my dog in the woods. I love crossword puzzles and coffee. If the weather is good, I like to cross country ski. I am really terrible at it, but it feels so good when I make that turn right before the tree that is in front of me.

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Minnesota Orchestra Staff