Now Hear This: an Interview with Erin Hannigan

If you have attended a performance at the Dallas Symphony, you have heard Erin Hannigan: if not a solo line within a major work, then at the very least you have heard the clarion call of her oboe sailing above the din calling the players to tune. Join us for an afternoon of oboe-centric works by British composers on Saturday, February 29 at English Sentiment, a Hallam Family Concert.

Erin Hannigan, Principal Oboe of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra

What piece on the program are you most excited about? What should we listen for?    I’m really excited to perform the Bliss Oboe Quintet for the first time! All of the pieces on the program are major staples of the oboe repertoire, but the Bliss seems to be performed less often than the Bax or the Britten. The Bliss is full of memorable tunes: everything from the most beautiful and lyrical theme to an Irish jig!

Is chamber music for oboe a big part of the repertoire?    The oboe has been around historically since Bach’s time, the 1600s, so there is a LOT of music written for it. I always consider myself lucky to have repertoire that spans the ages, both orchestral and chamber!

How old were you when you started playing oboe? Why did you choose it?    I started playing the oboe when I was 7 years old; just before third grade. I later found out that this its highly unusual to start on the oboe, and that playing it too soon disrupts brain development due to back pressure! I seem to have turned out ok, I think…When I was trying to decide which instrument to play my dad mentioned his love of the oboe, so I looked it up in the dictionary. It looked like a challenge, so I decided that was what I would do!

What’s it like having a professional music career in Dallas?    Dallas is an amazing place to have a career in the Arts. I have felt embraced through my Symphony position, but I have also felt so much support behind my community outreach initiative. Dallas is such a creative and artistic city! Another angle to my professional life is that I’ve been able to maintain a high-powered oboe studio at SMU. Finding a place where one can have truly top-level performing AND teaching is rare. My work here keeps me exceptionally busy, but I’ve been afforded the ability to accept playing opportunities in other places, such as the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, St Louis Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, and others. It’s good to travel to other cities and engage with other orchestras and artists. It keeps me aware and in sync with the artistic world at large!

What type of music did you listen growing up? What do you listen to now?    Growing up I listened only to classical, but now I have a far broader appreciation for all types of music. I can be found listening to everything from Bach to Christina Perri!

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play?    Johann Sebastian Bach is my all-around favorite to listen to and to play!

What advice would you give 14-year-old Erin?    If I could rewind time, I would tell myself to worry less and enjoy the process more. That doesn’t mean to work less hard because I feel that’s a necessity, but to stop more often and enjoy the journey.

What advice would you give a high schooler who wants to pursue music in college?    I tell my high school students who express an interest in majoring in music that they need to make sure that they truly love music and the art of playing the oboe. Pursuing music performance is challenging and extremely competitive and everyone, no matter who, will face challenges and disappointments. The love of it is what will carry them through.

What’s your favorite sound?    Ocean waves   Your least favorite sound?    Nails on a chalkboard

When you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert do you hope to hear?    Bach B Minor Mass