Erin Young and Rachel Van Amburgh


From- Midlothian, TX

Age- 25

Instrument- Oboe

School- University of Southern California, DMA Oboe Performance

Drinking- English Breakfast Tea w/ splash of cream and honey


From- Denaire, CA

Age- 20

Instrument- Classical Guitar

School- University of Southern California, BM Classical Guitar Performance

Drinking- Straight up coffee w/ half and half

Erin: "I would love to be a blues guitarist and have more freedom to play that sort of style. But, every time I attempt to do it it feels like because I have this idea about formal training, I keep myself from just diving in and being willing to make mistakes. I understand what it is to make a mistake as a musician, and so I anticipate that too early and I don’t end up taking any risks. So, that’s been a big struggle for me and recently I’ve been really trying to get over that. I bought a banjo and I’ve just been trying to play it. Not trying to play it right, just kind of trying to jump over this wall of having to be at a professional level, you have to do it correctly all the time. I do still want to do that soulful music, but I don’t have the knowledge and it scares me not being knowledgable. I don’t want to mess up and I think that’s a big block as a classical musician that a lot of us have."

Rachel: "Growing up we never were in a learning environment where mistakes were encouraged, or taking risks were encouraged. It was always perfection, perfection, perfection. So, we never had the opportunity to do that, which is why, like how Erin wanted to do more blues, and I wanted to experiment with popular music. I even wanted to start a band in middle school and high school and play keyboard. But I felt like, ‘oh I don’t know how to do that and I don’t know anyone who could teach me how to do that, so I’m not allowed to figure it out on my own because that’s not how it works.’ In reality, that’s totally fine and it should be encouraged! It’s something I’ve talked about a lot in my music education classes, about this idea of formal music education and whether it’s good or bad. We should be including more opportunities to let kids experiment and explore, make mistakes, improvise and compose, even if they don’t have the building blocks to do that. I took years of theory in college and I still don’t feel like I could sit down and write a piece in a classical idiom and feel comfortable about it, but I think I could totally write music in my own idiom which draws from all these different influences I have. But, I mean, I think since we’re both here we should talk about how I had this idea for my last recital. I love Joni Mitchell and I thought that it would sound great on the oboe, and I was talking to Erin at work one day and asked her, ‘hey do you want to play Joni Mitchell with me on my recital’, and she was like, ‘totally! yes!’ But, I asked her not knowing that Erin doesn’t actually read chords."

EY: "Yeah! I had reserved that because I really wanted to play with Rachel. I really did, and I didn’t think that she was going to agree to it if I told her that I don’t actually play chords! But I thought I could figure it out, so then I eventually fessed up and told her, ‘you know, I don’t really do this but I’m really willing to try.’"

RVA: "Well, that’s what was so great because this was the first time for me to bring popular music to a recital, and this was my first time doing any sort of arranging or playing popular music. For you it was probably the first time playing in a chord style. So it was this great exploratory moment where we were just like, ‘this is totally new for us, but it’s fun and there’s no expectations.’"

EY: "Yes! It was really nice because, honestly, we just worked through problems together. It worked out really well and people really liked it a lot. I had so much fun working on that, and it was kind of a breakthrough moment because I didn’t think that that was something you could really do. I think collaborating on it made it more OK to break through those feelings of not knowing what I was doing, and it was SO great in that respect."

Advice to other Musicians:

RVA"I mean I’ve definitely been through lots of difficult times, but what’s helped me is exploring lots of different kinds of music and art. Honestly, looking beyond music can be really helpful. When I took a class that studied John Cage, I got really invested in his ideas that draw very heavily from Daoism and Buddhism. This idea of separating yourself from likes and dislikes and for him it was just letting sound be itself and appreciate it for what is on its own. You just have to get out of your immediate zone because that can oddly bring you back to what you love. I got really into early music later on in my college career which helped me rekindle my love for playing the oboe. Find things outside of what you do all the time and it will eventually circle back."

EY"Why are we so similar, it sucks haha! A lot of the time when I’m having trouble getting connected with my own playing I like to stop and look up and really seek inspiration elsewhere. I get really excited about a lot of different things, so I can read about history and I get really interested in other things. I always find that when I eventually reach that point of just excitement and inspiration, it rekindles the fire that wants to create and wants to do something. Even if I’m reading about historical events or watching a play, I leave and I’m so enthralled and my creative juices are flowing and it makes me want to go and do my own creative thing. Being able to translate inspiration from other places has been huge for me. If I can take this energy and go home and play one really nice piece for myself, I will fall asleep so happy, so incredibly happy. You should never leave your instrument after a day of practice feeling angry. Never."


Rachel: My guiding role model in life is RuPaul. He guides me daily and is my everything, and and two of my favorite quotes are:

1)“If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else. Can I get an Amen!”

2)“What other people think of me is none of my damn business.”

ErinIt’s the wanting to know that makes us matter”-Tom Stoppard from "Arcadia"

Do you think that Inspiration is crucial in order to be successful?:

EY: "I think for me I wouldn't consider it success if it didn’t come from a place of inspiration. You’re not always going to feel inspired because that’s not realistic, but it’s the retention of that feeling, and the knowledge that it is there, along with the work in constantly re-connecting yourself with the base inspiration and what made you want to do this in the first place. That would be success for me. If I had pushed through, but lost connection with that inspiration, I wouldn’t be successful because I wouldn’t be happy. So I would say that the two are definitely connected, but you’re going to have to re-learn how to re-connect yourself with that feeling.

RVA: "I also agree. It’s a complicated topic. Sometimes we’re internally motivated, sometimes we’re externally motivated. But, I found it really difficult to be inspired and to play while you’re balancing real life responsibilities. I sometimes don’t know how I’m going to be out of bed every day and make reeds and all of that. But, sometimes you have to find inspiration within yourself when there’s nothing external, and sometimes it’s just as much as, ‘I’m going to get out of bed and play the oboe today because it’s what I’m best at. I just need to do it well, I don’t have to do it perfectly, I just have to do the best I can today and that’s all I can do.’ I wouldn’t necessarily call that inspiration, per say, but that is what the driving force is sometimes. On good days, sure I might be inspired by lots of different things. But it’s definitely very fluid, it’s on a spectrum, because you can’t say, ‘I’m super inspired all the time by life and love and happiness’ haha. But, as far as being successful, what does that even mean. Who defines success, other than yourself."