A newsmaker you should know: World-traveling oboe player returns for concert

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While in the third grade at a Derry Area School District elementary school, Andrea Ridilla was so impressed with a concert by the Pittsburgh Symphony at her school she decided to "do something musically herself." It was a decision that went on to form her career as an internationally acclaimed oboe soloist and teacher.

At 8 p.m. on Saturday, Ms. Ridilla will open the Saint Vincent Concert Series with a performance that will feature six works including Ennio Morricone's "Gabriel's Oboe."

Bruce Murray, a native of Pleasant Hills who is now chair of the music department at Miami University of Ohio, will accompany her.

The concerts are held at the Robert S. Carey Performing Arts Center on the Unity campus.

As a youngster, Ms. Ridilla took her first oboe lessons with Louis Elster of Greensburg. In the eighth grade she began studying under Robert Lloyd, a professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, who himself studied at The Juilliard School under renowned oboist Harold Gomberg, once principal oboist with the New York Philharmonic.

While in high school, Ms. Ridilla, also held the position of second oboe with the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Richard Karp, former conductor for the Pittsburgh Opera.

"Mr. Karp was a big help to me," she said. "Not only was he a wonderful musician but he also advised me on my career and where to attend college."

At Oberlin College, she said, she studied under one of the best oboe teachers in the nation, James Caldwell, and added that many of his students have gone on to have successful musical careers.

After getting her master's in music from Juilliard, she's performed around the world and, for the past 10 summers, she has been the principal oboist at the Classical Music Festival in Eisenstadt, Austria, where she plays in the same castle Haydn played for the Esterhazy family. "This August, while in Eisenstadt, I also got to hike in the Austrian Alps," she said.

In April, she said, she had one of her most interesting career experiences when she was invited to give a master class on reed making and oboe playing at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory, where she got to tour the Kremlin and the city, then took a train to St. Petersburg where she gave a similar master class at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory of Music.

A professor of music at Miami University, Ms. Ridilla also holds a 2009 patent on an oboe reed-making machine called the Ridilla gouger along with Udo Heng, president of Reeds 'n Stuff in Annaberg, Germany.

"As an oboist, you have to make your own reeds, which is a long and difficult process," she said. "You start with bamboo and go through seven steps, one of which is the gouging process."

At Miami University, Ms. Ridilla teaches oboe and an honors course in Italian opera, which involves an annual field trip to the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

"Singing opera relates very well to playing the oboe in that breath control is very important to both," she said. "When a lot of my oboe students come to me, they come with bad habits like breathing high in the chest. One of my biggest challenges is to get them to breathe lower and teach them new ways of thinking about the oboe by relaxing more and letting up on their bite."

As a university professor, she said there's not a lot of time left for leisure but she does love cooking and sports such as swimming, biking and skiing. Her favorite musical period is the Baroque because of its wonderful repertoire for the oboe. However, she said music is a lot like picking the sort of food to eat.

"One day you might go for pasta, the next day steak," she said.

Last summer, the much traveled oboist was invited to perform at the Skopje Music Festival in Macedonia, and in May, she was the guest artist at the Third Annual Congress of the Seville Double Reed Society in Spain.

In 2009, she recorded her latest CD titled L'Amore Italiano, with the Sofia Philharmonic of Bulgaria. The CD is a compilation of lyrical oboe works taken from Italian films and opera.

A frequent visitor to the greater Pittsburgh area, Ms. Ridilla will be making her sixth concert appearance at Saint Vincent.

For the past 25 years, she also has been coming to the city every two months to have her hair colored and stay at the William Penn.

Tickets for the performance are $25. Call 724-805-2565.


Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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