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Gallery: Will Stevens and the art of the oboe

By Emma Skinner

April 25, 2017 12:50 p.m.

Meet Will Stevens, a first-year music student with an emphasis in oboe performance. “I was born into it because my dad is a professional drummer and vibraphonist for jazz. He just kind of always played music around the house and gave me piano lessons. Then, I joined band playing trumpet in elementary school as a second grader.”

(Emma Skinner/Daily Bruin)

Stevens has always loved music, but admits there are some insecurities he has had to deal with. “I’d probably break it down into two things. One is the constant sense of insecurity from hearing other amazing musicians your age or younger than you or a little bit older, prodigies basically. It can be really disconcerting, like ‘Oh my gosh, they’re already that good at this age and what am I doing?’ That’s been a huge struggle. The other thing is probably (society) looking down on it as a career. A lot of people are like ‘Oh, music isn’t a real major, it’s not a real career. You should be a doctor or a lawyer.' That’s been a huge struggle with me; am I being selfish for pursuing what I love if it means that I might not be able to support a family in the future?”

(Emma Skinner/Daily Bruin)

But he always knew that his heart belonged to music, so he stuck with it. He fell in love with the oboe in middle school when asked by his teacher if anyone would try it out. “I had observed that I did a lot better working on my own than in a section with a lot of people. When you play oboe, you get to be a soloist because there’s generally only one or two other people in your section. It’s just a much more individual instrument and I was very attracted to that.”

(Emma Skinner/Daily Bruin)

“Just because I know what I’m going to do doesn’t mean that I’m on this automatic track for success. The fact that I know what I am going to do is almost more disconcerting than someone who doesn’t because I know how much work I have to do in the future and I know how much competition there is.”

(Emma Skinner/Daily Bruin)

“That’s the biggest thing for me as a musician, making sure the audience is enjoying it. I’m not a very self-indulgent musician.”

(Emma Skinner/Daily Bruin)

Stevens has always found love in music, and not just the oboe. His other instruments include piano, trumpet, saxophone, clarinet and drums. “I definitely always wanted to do music. I honestly don’t remember a time when I was like ‘Oh I don’t want music to be a part of my life anymore.' Whenever I was grounded and they would take away my video games or my phone or whatever, I would go play music and look extra happy about it.”

(Emma Skinner/Daily Bruin)

Stevens found his home at UCLA in the music program. “There were a lot of times in high school, just when I was like 'Oh, I’m the only one in this orchestra that wants to be a music major, no one’s really trying, everyone’s focusing on homework or other things.' ... (But here) everyone knows that they love music, their parents aren’t forcing them to do this, so they’re here becomes they want to be. That automatically makes the music better, because everyone's putting in a lot of effort.”

(Emma Skinner/Daily Bruin)

“I generally wake up around 7, 7:30 a.m., every other day I go to the gym. Get breakfast at B-Plate, then I have either music theory or musicianship class, which is just an ear training class, all with the same people, all with freshman music majors, so we’ve all really gotten close. After that I either have a private lesson with the oboe instructor here or I go to practice and make reeds, do that for about one to three hours. Then I have rehearsal, around three hours, with my large ensemble, which is either wind ensemble or orchestra. Then some days, after that, I have a small ensemble rehearsal, which is woodwind quintet, about an hour. Then I go home, and I read in my dorm, get some dinner and then just kind of wind down, make some tea.”

(Emma Skinner/Daily Bruin)

As an avid reader, one of Stevens’s recent accomplishments was finishing The Big Picture by Sean Carroll. “He changed my life because he made me understand what really exists, on a quantum level, on a physical level, like what the world is made of, what this universe is made of, how small humans are in this planet. In this universe, this planet is so small. So it was humbling, but also very educational.”

(Emma Skinner/Daily Bruin)

“For me as a person, music is 100 percent my life, honestly. I love doing other things but it’s very hard to get me not listening or thinking about music. I think it’s really important than someone finds something they’re as passionate about. You shouldn’t settle for something less because of whatever ‘insert external motivation here’ for why you should do something else than something that you absolutely love.”

(Emma Skinner/Daily Bruin)

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Emma Skinner | Photographer
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