Bethany at the Tianjin Juilliard Spring Festival celebration on campus Photo Credit: Shengyishijue
Oboist Bethany Lawrence is full of unbridled enthusiasm – both in her performances as well as when speaking of her experiences studying at Tianjin Juilliard. Originally from Houston, studying in China is her very first experience living outside of Texas, United States. Bethany started learning the oboe at age eleven when she joined a band program at school. She currently holds English Horn positions in the Amarillo Symphony and the Symphony of Southeast Texas. She is also the co-founder and artistic director of the Houston Serenade Project. Bethany has performed a number of concerti with various ensembles at The University of Texas at Austin, including JS Bach’s Concerto for Oboe and Violin, Mozart’s Oboe Concerto, and the Pēteris Vasks Concerto for English Horn and Orchestra, which she performed as the winner of the UT Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition.
How are you enjoying majoring in Orchestral Studies?
I have been having a lot of fun! Right now, I'm playing in the orchestra and I'm in the wind orchestra. There was so much enthusiasm throughout the entire orchestra, such as the first orchestra rehearsal when we did the Mendelssohn for the first time. We hadn't had the chance to play with other people for a really long time. You just could hear how excited everyone was to be able to play together. That was really special!
I really enjoy my quintet rehearsals. In my quintet, there are five of us from four different countries so there are five different voices, which could seem difficult in theory. However, it actually makes the communication with the music so much easier because we are really focused on showing each other what we want, showing each other that we're listening. As a result, the rehearsals have just been a blast!
Bethany at a Tianjin Juilliard Orchestra rehearsal. Photo Credit: Shengyishijue
Who are you studying with?
I'm currently studying with resident faculty Scott Bell. He is a legendary oboist from the States! He worked with the Pittsburgh Symphony for a really long time. I've been really enjoying my lessons with him. He is super knowledgeable both as someone who spent a lot of time on stage performing, but also as someone who spent a lot of time listening to auditions, on different committees for different instruments. He has been helpful by listening to my playing and helping me focus on ways to get myself there, and to take what I do as an artist and just make it the best possible version of my voice.
I've been enjoying the classes so far, particularly the collaboration interpretation classes. I have taken research classes before where usually it feels like there's a degree of separation between the research and the application of it, which is the performance. What I really appreciate is that my teachers, Julia Glenn and Audrey Axinn both do a really good job of showing how the knowledge can actually affect what you do with the music. I think that's really very cool.
What is your favorite spot on campus?
My favorite spot would be my teacher’s office because it has an incredible view of the river. It's a really nice acoustical space. The practice rooms also sound really good so far. I'm an oboe musician so I spend a lot of time making my own reeds. Sometimes that can be quite stressful. It's nice to just have a window out to a beautiful river to look at!
Do you recall your first day in Tianjin?
On my first full day in Tianjin, I went on a walk. I was not sure what to expect. I was excited to get out and see the city and experience China in a real way, for the first time. And I stumbled upon this entire city block of roses. I thought they were just so beautiful. I'd never seen anything like that before. I thought that was super cool. I also enjoyed strolling downtown with the different bridges across the Hai river recently. That was a really fun experience. I feel like I have learned a lot on how to communicate. I've learned a lot about cultural aspects that are unique to the United States and cultural experiences that are unique to China. It has been a pretty big learning experience. So far, I'm really happy with my decision.