The New York Philharmonic

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Biography
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Sherry Sylar joined the New York Philharmonic in 1984 as Associate Principal Oboe. She was the Orchestra’s Acting Principal Oboe during the 2005–06 season and has also served as guest principal oboe for other major orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the St. Louis Symphony, and the Minnesota Orchestra. Prior to joining the New York Philharmonic she was a member of the Louisville Orchestra. She was among the select group of Philharmonic musicians who joined the orchestra that Leonard Bernstein conducted in the historic Freedom Concert at the falling of the Berlin Wall in 1989, which she counts as one of the highlights of her career.

 

As a featured soloist with the New York Philharmonic, she has performed Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante in B-flat major, conducted by Jeffrey Kahane, and Bach’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe, with the Orchestra’s Principal Associate Concertmaster Sheryl Staples, conducted by Kent Nagano. In 1989 she was soloist in the Orchestra’s performances and recording of Handel’s Oboe Concerto in G minor, Zubin Mehta conducting. She also serves as the New York Philharmonic’s oboe d’amore player, and she earned praise from The New York Times for her solos on that instrument during the orchestra’s 2013 The Bach Variations: A Philharmonic Festival. In March 2016 she performed the World Premiere of Pablo Furman’s Concerto for Oboe and Strings with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra, and later reprised the work in Poland and in Tampa, Florida.

 

An avid performer of chamber music, she appears often in the concerts of the New York Philharmonic Ensembles and has participated in the Aspen and Grand Teton Music Festivals. She played Luciano Berio’s Sequenza VIIa for solo oboe at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater as part of the New York Philharmonic’s celebration of the late composer in 2008.

 

Sylar gives master classes for oboists internationally and was invited to China as a judge for the Beijing National Orchestra’s first-ever auditions. A native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, she earned her bachelor’s degree at Indiana University and her master’s degree from Northwestern University. She formerly taught at the University of Evansville in Indiana, and is currently on the faculty of Manhattan School of Music. Her CD, Oboe Dolce, includes solo oboe and chamber music featuring Principal Bassoon Judith LeClair, Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps, Harriet Wingreen, Jonathan Feldman, Yi Fang Wang, and Norman Weiss. 

“In junior high school I joined the band and started playing the flute. There were lots of flutes and fewer oboes. The oboe spoke to me.”

Q&A with Sherry Sylar

THE FACTS: Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. B.A. in music from Indiana University, and master’s degree from Northwestern University. Prior to the Philharmonic: performed with the Louisville Orchestra, and taught at the University of Evansville in Indiana. At the Philharmonic: Joined in 1984. Solo debut in January 1989, playing Handel’s Oboe Concerto No. 3 with Zubin Mehta. Current teaching posts: Manhattan School of Music, Shanghai Orchestra Academy, and CUNY; gives master classes for oboists internationally. Most recent recording: Oboe Dolce with current and former Philharmonic colleagues Cynthia Phelps, Judith LeClair, Jonathan Feldman, and Harriet Wingreen. Is proud to be heard on many film soundtracks including Beauty and the Beast and West Side Story (2021).

EARLIEST MUSICAL MEMORY: Sitting at our piano when I was four and “picking out” songs I had heard. Also, listening over and over to Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony. I was probably nine. My uncle was a pianist and church organist and had a collection of classical recordings. That Dvořák just sent me — I wore it out! I studied piano for a long time. When I was in junior high school, I joined the band and started playing the flute. There were lots of flutes and fewer oboes. The oboe spoke to me. My teacher gave me a plastic oboe — I called it my “corn-cob oboe.” Then my parents spent $800 and bought me a professional wooden one. In my mind, that was it.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT WITH THE ORCHESTRA: Playing in Berlin with Leonard Bernstein on Christmas Day, 1989, commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall.

MOST INSPIRING COMPOSER TO PLAY: I love playing Bach, whose musical themes very carefully and vividly reflect the lyrics. Bach is transformative for me. Dvorak, Brahms, and Mozart are also pure joy to perform.

HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR A CONCERT? I tend to try to reduce any other stresses in my life and make sure I’m working out. It’s like a marathon when we’re playing a concerto. In an ordinary week I will take a nap and be careful how I use my energy.

WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO NOW? Jazz and Broadway on satellite radio

ARE THERE MUSICIANS IN YOUR FAMILY? In addition to my uncle, my mother was a pianist. I’m the only wind player in the family.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF WORK? Taking long walks with my spouse on our nature trail. I love to cook; spending time in the kitchen is most relaxing to me.

As of May 2022

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