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Soloist Spotlight: Phil Rashkin

Phil Rashkin is a multifaceted artist working as a conductor, pianist, oboist, composer, and educator based in NYC. He can be found leading groups including the Manhattan Symphonie and Opera Upper West, playing in the Downtown Music at Grace concert series, and teaching at music schools and pre-college programs throughout the city.

As a regular performer with The Chelsea Symphony, Phil is returning as a soloist on Friday, May 13th, to perform Jennifer Higdon’s spirited and mischievous Oboe Concerto. Earlier this week, we caught up with him for a quick Q&A about the upcoming concert.

The Chelsea Symphony: What has been your proudest moment or moments in music so far?
Phil Rashkin: My proudest musical moment has to be the when I played with The Chelsea Symphony at Rikers Island. TCS had previously filmed at Rikers Island for Amazon's TV series Mozart in the Jungle, and our orchestra wanted to return and experience a more authentic connection with the detainees. As we played at the follow-up concert, they were the most engaged audience that I have ever played for. They were very appreciative and it was a very special moment for me.

TCS: When was your first TCS concert? What brought you to the group?
PR: My first TCS concert was with Mark O'Connor at Symphony Space! We played the NYC premiere of his The Improvised Violin Concerto. I remember him being down to earth and I had a lot of fun at the concert!

TCS: What do you carry with you in your instrument case?
PR: Since I am an oboe player, lots of things! We use many accessories to help us make music at the highest level: a reed case with many oboe reeds, a small cup of water to soak the reeds, an instrument cleaning swab, absorbent cigarette paper in case condensation gets in a key, a tuner/metronome, an iPad that has my sheet music, and reed making tools that include whittling knives and single-edged razor blades. Oboe players make their own reeds, and it's a craft that has been relatively unchanged for the last 100 years. A good reed is critical for us to find our voice and play in tune, and since they do not last very long, we are always crafting them.

TCS: What do you do to set yourself up for success on the day of an important performance?
PR: On a performance day, I try to rest as much as possible. I use breathing techniques throughout the day to calm myself, and I use the centering process from Don Greene's book Performance Success. If any performers are unaware of this book, I highly recommend it. He has taught at The New World Symphony and The Juilliard School, and I have found his techniques to be extremely helpful in my own performance preparation.

TCS: Why did you choose to perform this piece with TCS?
PR: I love Jennifer Higdon's music. I first played her piece blue cathedral when I was a high school student attending the Boston University Tanglewood Institute. The piece touched me dearly and I have been a fan of her ever since. TCS performed blue cathedral in January 2020, and I have also attended a performance of that piece with the NY Philharmonic that left me in tears (it's easier to feel the music when one isn't performing on stage!).


Join us at 8pm on Friday, May 13th at St. Paul's Church at 315 West 22nd Street for Phil’s performance of Higdon’s Oboe Concerto!