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Gabe Young returns to Ashland for oboe concert

At age 21, oboist Gabe Young has traveled the world, performing for audiences from Russia to Colorado.

Young now returns to his hometown for a Chamber Music Concerts recital at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 30, in the Music Recital Hall, 405 S. Mountain Ave., on the Southern Oregon University Music Recital Hall in Ashland. Pianist Jodi French, an adjunct faculty member at SOU, will accompany Young.

Tickets are $20 and are available online at www.chambermusicconcerts.org.

"A lot of people who don't know Ashland would think that growing up in a small town far from a big city would make it difficult to grow and succeed musically," Young says. "But a huge part of my musical growth has been with the support of the Ashland and Rogue Valley communities. It's been such a joy over the years to return and perform for familiar faces. It gives me this drive to keep going when things get tough. You know people support you and support your success. It's nice to come back and share with them how I've grown."

Young is a junior at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana.

When he was 2 years old, he received a toy saxophone for his birthday, then graduated to a real saxophone at age 6. When Young was 10, a relative loaned him an oboe.

Because saxophones aren't normally included in an orchestra, Young was able to take part in orchestral music through the oboe.

"The saxophone wasn't invented until after the standardized orchestra was developed," he says.

Young continues to play both instruments but hopes to someday win a seat in a professional orchestra as an oboist.

"Something about the oboe really spoke to me. The oboe has its limitations and it's difficult to play," he says. "But some of the most magical moments in music are made by the oboe."

For the Friday recital in Ashland, Young is again teaming with French, a professional accompanist and accomplished soloist who occasionally played with Young when he lived in the Rogue Valley.

"Playing with Jodi is a real treat for me," Young says. "Growing up in Ashland, I had the good fortune of playing with her in my nascent years. We played in recital settings and in competitions. She's the consummate professional and a fantastic musician."

The two will begin the recital with English composer York Bowen's "Oboe Sonata."

"York Bowen was a British late Romantic composer who was a pianist as well," Young says. "There's a beautiful interplay between the piano and oboe in the sonata."

The second piece — "Concerto for Oboe" — is by English composer, Eugene Goossens.

"While Gooseens was British, the concerto has some French Impressionistic influence in it," Young says. "It's a beautiful piece. The oboe can display some technical ability at the end. It's a mysterious piece."

Next, Young and French will perform "Sonata for Oboe and Piano in D Major" by French composer Camille Saint-Saens.

"It's a beautiful, delicate, innocent piece. It has a nice simplicity to it and interplay between the piano and oboe. There's a natural beauty and warmth to it," Young says.

The two will end with French composer Jules Massenet's "Meditation from Thais."

"It's a short, nice closing piece," Young says. "I like the interplay between these four pieces. There's lots of diversity but with some overarching themes."

Young says he and French have worked out the details of their performance together, making decisions about tempo, balance and other musical issues.

"All collaboration in music starts with communicating ideas for a piece. Within every piece there could be hundreds of different paths of interpretation," he says.

Wherever he goes, Young continues to collaborate with and learn from other musicians.

When he was in high school, he was a member of the National Youth Orchestra that traveled to Russia and England one summer, then embarked on a coast-to-coast tour of America the following summer.

Last year, he played at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and this past summer he spent eight weeks at a music festival and school in Aspen, Colorado.

"Meeting all these different people in the music world is so amazing," he says. "People are so skilled and inspirational. I get to connect with people of diverse backgrounds who are all heading toward a common goal. It's always such a joy for me to perform great music."

Gabe Young. Photo courtesy of Jody Schmidt