Juliana Gaona grew up in Colombia. She achieved her Bachelor’s in Music in oboe performance in Bogota, Colombia, before continuing her music education in the United States three years ago.
There were not many options for graduate studies in music in Colombia, and Gaona first had to learn English for a year before coming to the US. She wanted to continue her education by pursuing her artist diploma in oboe performance in Southern California. This was when she found her way to San Diego State University.
Gaona first started taking basic music lessons at the age of 14. She went to a private conservatory, as unlike the United States, there were no marching bands or music classes in Colombian high schools.
When asked how she ended up playing the oboe, Gaona described a moment in which she was sitting in an orchestra rehearsal with her mother.
“I was trying to decide which instrument I liked,” Gaona said. “I started listening to the oboe solo and just fell in love with the sound. I didn’t know what it was as it wasn’t common and I told my mom I wanted to play that even though I didn’t know what it was.”
After the rehearsal, she ran into the lady who played the oboe and asked her about the mysterious instrument. The oboist said, “This is the oboe, when do you want to start?”
Gaona started one week after she spoke with her and immediately fell in love with it.
“It’s a very special instrument because of the process of reed making. We make our own reeds.” Gaona said.
A reed is a piece of thin cane or metal, sometimes doubled, which vibrates in a current of air to produce the sound of the oboe. It is not uncommon for oboists or woodwind musicians to make their own reed.
“It’s a long process because we want to be in charge of the entire process from the beginning,” Gaona explained. “We buy the cane, which is a kind of bamboo that grows in France. We have specific machines that we use to take of layers and use knives to scrape the reed.”
This process is what makes the relationship between the oboist and his or her instrument so intimate. “We say it’s another craft,” Gaona said.
“The reed becomes your own voice. It is your own sound, your own personality. My reed isn’t going to be the same as my colleagues and it’s not going to sound the same. We have to look for our own personality within.”
She further adds, “I think I spend more time making reed than practicing. [Each instrument] shouldn’t sound different once you’ve perfected your craft, but sometimes it’s a different cane. We treat it as a living organism because it changes a lot, even with the weather. For example, on a hot day, the fiber grows and the reed changes.”
“Once you have a perfect reed, that’s happiness. You feel in sync with your oboe and for me that’s one of the main purposes.”
SDSU’s School of Music and Dance purchased the entire equipment for the oboe studio, making it available for students to perfect their craft.
Her overall experience at SDSU has been enjoyable, said Gaona. “I’m playing in every single ensemble, which is what I wanted to do.” She particularly enjoyed classes with Dr. Marian Liebowitz who helped her focus on her musical career and with Sarah Skuster who was her first oboe teacher here and has continued to encourage Gaona’s growth as a musician.
Gaona currently plays in all the ensembles at SDSU including some chamber groups, with her final recital in April. She is graduating in May, and hopes to stay for another year in the United States on her student visa.