Local Oboist lives it up during return trip to Corvallis

By Erin Madison

The Entertainer

CORVALLIS - When Lara Wickes tried to explain Corvallis' Chintimini Music Festival to her friends at the University of Southern California, where she's working on her doctorate in music arts, they had a hard time believing a showcase of professional musicians who grew up in Corvallis could actually be good.

But one of the reason Wickes enjoys performing the festival so much is because of the high level of the other musicians she gets to play with.

"They're definitely up there or better than other players I've worked with," the oboist said. "It's really a great festival."

There probably aren't too many other places where this sort of thing would work, Wickes believes.

"Most towns are either too big or too small," she said.

Corvallis seems to be the perfect size to have enough people to successfully pursue a career in music, but small enough that community members are familiar with the performers.

"It's definitely fun to come back and sort of be treated like a celebrity," Wickes said.

Tuesday night's concert, the first performance of the festival in Corvallis, packed the First Congregational Church, where it was held. The crowd gave a standing ovation at the end and it just felt very supportive, Wickes said.

The Chintimini festival is a nice opportunity for community members to see what students from Corvallis are doing after they leave, she said.

The festival also owes some of its success to the local schools' music program, Wickes said.

"Corvallis has a really strong music program in the schools," she said.

Without teachers like Scott Janes, who taught Wickes from sixth to 12th grade, there's no way Wickes would have gone into music, she said.

"He was just a great person," she said, and he kept a strong program going.

Band was a big part of high school for Wickes, who graduated from Crescent Valley High School in 1996, especially since she wasn't interested in the typical high school social scene.

"Band was just so important to me," she said. "It was like the one place I was cool."

In addition to playing in her high school band, Wickes was the principle oboist in the Corvallis Youth Symphony for three years. CYS gave her a first taste of playing solos, which is both a totally terrifying and exhilarating experience, she said.

She's still asked to play a number of the important orchestral pieces she learned for CYS, and they come back to her very quickly, Wickes said.

It makes Wickes nervous to see the continuous budget cuts that Corvallis schools' music departments take.

"I think it's also just the fear of knowing that someday, someday soon, the whole thing could just get axed," Wickes said.

Overall, parents, teachers and principals are all supportive of the music programs, she said.

"I almost feel like people wouldn't let it happen," Wickes said, but still, she knows it'll be music that gets cut before math, and that the community at large may not understand the importance of school music programs.

Corvallis schools are among the best despite their lack of funds, Wickes said.

"There's just something kind of special about the kids from Corvallis," she said, and not just in music, but in general - they have a certain maturity and awareness.

"I think other people see it, too," she said. "They're just really very funny and confident, and I think that makes an impression."

The Chintimini Festival isn't the only festival Wickes will be playing in this summer. She'll be heading to Switzerland at the end of August for the Lucerne Music Festival.

"It's a new musical festival, which means most of the composers are living," Wickes said.

The festival director is Pierre Boulez, who is a fairly famous composer and conductor, she said.

The type of music she will be playing at the Lucerne festival uses non-traditional techniques, something she does a lot of. This may have helped give her an edge to get into the festival, as international festivals are fairly competitive.

"I even speak a little bit of German, so I'm really excited to be there," Wickes said.

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