Meet the Musician: Laura Griffiths

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The 2016 Repertory Season marked the 40th anniversary of the SF Ballet Orchestra. As Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer, Helgi Tomasson, recently, “the finest dance can only happen with the support of an equally world-class orchestra.”  To celebrate our world-class musicians, we will introduce you to various members of the Orchestra throughout the season . Today we’d like to introduce you to principal oboist, Laura Griffiths.

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When Laura Griffiths was 11, listening to Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, she thought of the oboe as a duck. Then she heard the instrument played live and knew it was for her. “It’s so vocal,” she says. “I wanted to express myself; sing without actually singing. There’s so much room for variation and color.”

The oboe, a double-reed instrument, produces sound via vibrating pieces of cane. “We make our own reeds,” Griffiths says. “You split the cane, gouge out the middle, then fold it and tie it into a reed.” Customized reeds are necessary because each oboist “has a different embouchure [use of the lips, tongue, and teeth],” she says. “It’s specific to our tone quality and pitch, and what we can do with articulation and response.”

Griffiths played with symphony orchestras (Rochester, Cleveland, and San Francisco) before joining the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra in 2005. “I still feel excited to be part of the ballet. When I was a kid I saw Helgi Tomasson dance with New York City Ballet, so I appreciate ballet, and the music.” Tchaikovsky, for example: “There’s so much to sink your teeth into.”

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