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Meet the Musician: Hollis Ulaky

Hollis Ulaky has been principal oboist with the Charlotte Symphony since 1974. Originally from Pittsburgh, she grew up in a musical family. Following her graduation from Carnegie Mellon University, she joined the CSO. She is currently a faculty member of Winthrop University and a Yamaha Performing Artist. In her free time, she enjoys Zumba and Pilates, visiting her children, and playing with her trio, RHODORA, along with CSO colleagues Amy Orsinger Whitehead (flute) and Drucilla DeVan (clarinet).


How were you introduced to classical music?
My family introduced me. Growing up, I was the youngest of six siblings, all of whom played instruments. This led me to believe that everyone played an instrument! Today, five of us are professional musicians, and one of my siblings used to play the flute and piano. My father was also a jazz musician.

Why did you chose the oboe?
It was unusual, and I loved the sound.

If you weren't a professional musician, what would you be?
I might have been a nurse. I'm interested in people and their care.

What music do you listen to when you are not practicing or performing?
Some classical, some jazz

Where can we find you when you're not rehearsing or performing?
I spend lots of time making reeds. It's a necessary part of being an oboist and an important part of my preparation for the orchestra. I also enjoy teaching. Besides my students at Winthrop, I have 10 private students, three of whom are in the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra program.

What's one thing you can't live without?
My family. My husband, Jim, is in the CSO's percussion section. We have two sons together, Joe, 27, who's an architect in Philadelphia, and Mike, 25, who is a Broadcast Engineer for Turtle Entertainment in Los Angeles.

What have your favorite pieces been thus far this season and what are you most looking forward to?
I really enjoyed Beethoven's Symphony No. 3. The slow movement solos suit the mournful sound of the oboe. And, of course, the Brahms German Requiem, since it was my mother's favorite piece. I'm looking forward to Barber's Violin Concerto, which includes another beautiful oboe solo. Barber writes such touching melodies.

Which composer or composition most inspires you?
Bach inspires me the most. His music contains so much emotion and intensity. 

What is your earliest musical memory?
Watching my sister play the flute when I was 2 years old and trying to play the piano with her. 

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