March 12, 2020
A Conversation with John Snow, Principal Oboe
Minnesota Orchestra member since: 1999
Position/section: Principal Oboe
Education: UW-Madison; Beloit College; Luther College; Yale School of Music
Tell us about one of your favorite musical memories.
In 1979 I won my first orchestra job as second oboe in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Within a few months of starting there, the orchestra went on its first European tour, led by their music director Antal Dorati. We were performing Brahms’ First Symphony at the Musikverein in Vienna. At this point, Dorati was getting to the end of his career. When we got to the last movement of the symphony and began the beautiful chorale near the end, Dorati was looking up, as if to heaven, and there was a tremendous look of both sadness and hope on his face. I will never forget that, and every time I play this piece, I have tears in my eyes.
What part of being in the Minnesota Orchestra has been the most meaningful for you during your career?
I have always admired the orchestra’s work ethic. In the toughest of times, we always managed to do our best, even from the first rehearsal. It has always inspired me to be as ready as I can be.
What is your favorite Orchestra performance venue?
The Musikverein in Vienna is so stunning both visually and acoustically, and it is always inspiring to play there. It is the quintessential historical monument to centuries of great classical music.
If you could give an aspiring orchestral musician one piece of advice, what would it be?
Being rejected at an audition does not mean you are a failure. It simply means it wasn’t your turn that day.
What are you looking forward to doing in retirement?
I think it’s pretty funny when colleagues ask me this question, too! When I retire from the Orchestra in August, I plan to travel a lot, cook and bake a lot, throw pots, write poetry and stories, dabble in watercolor painting, and just generally see what John Snow is all about without an oboe reed in his mouth!
If you didn’t play the oboe what career might you choose?
A pastry chef!!!
We know you love to cook. What is your favorite thing to make?
My favorite comfort food is fresh, homemade pasta topped by steamed broccoli in a homemade basil pesto sauce with crumbled bacon and parmesan.
What else should we all know about you?
Without having any experience, I built a cabin up north of Hinckley. I followed a seven-page magazine article with a single diagram and step-by-step instructions. I managed to do this pretty much on my own except for a long weekend when several friends from the Orchestra came up to help put on the roof. I built a matching outhouse, and now, in retirement, I will finally add indoor plumbing and solar energy! This will definitely go down as one of my biggest achievements!!