My Music- Celia Craig

By Celia_Craig  -  28 May 2015

  • Why do you play your instrument ?

That's a bit of a difficult question- accident in fact! I was a violinist for years but oboe seemed natural, having played recorder for fun (a great way to start for any wind player), it was offered to me as part of a school music lesson programme and I just carried on from there. Violin was too difficult, really!..

  •   When did you first start to play with other people? 

I first started to play with other people on oboe in the Northamptonshire County Youth Concert Band  where my close colleagues included one who went on to play for La Scala and one who is now Principal Oboe of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra! Previous Northamptonshire Music Service musicians are in the music profession in all areas. It was a great community, kept all of the teenagers occupied all weekend and of course practicing too, and above all, great fun. It is really sad to see cuts to both these kinds of services- school music and youth orchestras- in both countries, UK and Australia. I’m sure many potential great musicians will miss out.

  • What music was in your house growing up? 

My house was full of music: my Dad was a founder member with the Monteverdi Choir and was always singing, rehearsing, listening to music, we’d go to concerts he was doing, or sit in on rehearsals and music was all around. He and I always played music together so I always knew the piano parts of any piece I was playing, and listened to the orchestral pieces. Very important part of practice.

  • Were you the only one who played in your family? 

So I’m not the only one, but my sister didn’t want to follow me in music departments, although she did play, she chose drama for her arts subject and became very good at it. My mum always describes herself as an audience- and we need those...

  •   Who was your most influential music teacher? 

My most influential music teacher has to be the superb oboe teacher Nicholas Daniel whom I learnt with on a scholarship at The Purcell School. So inspiring and also practical. However I also have had many influential teachers- violin teachers, my first specialist oboe teacher, teachers at The Purcell School where I went for sixth form/years 11 and 12, generous staff at the Royal Academy of Music too. I’ve been lucky with many great teachers.

  • Are there any other areas of music you’d like to explore? 

I’ve always been interested in improvising, playing by ear, playing with bands of different genres, and now I’m getting some chances as Adelaide has such a vibrant music scene. Really enjoying improvising with Neumeria Art Collective  - we have just launched a CD. (It’s just something refreshing to be able to respond to harmony instead of playing exactly what is on the page, which is what we have to do all the rest of the time..)

  • What opportunities has your job given you that most people wouldn’t experience? 

The opportunity to travel has been wonderful in my career in music. I’ve toured several times to Europe, America, South America, Russia, Asia, and now all over Australia and New Zealand since emigrating. Seen countries I might never have been to otherwise: Argentina, Taiwan, Lithuania, Brazil, Russia, Spain..  great opportunities. I regret not having been to China (I left the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 2006 just as they were touring to China) but hopefully from Australia that chance might happen in the future- something exciting to look forward to. I love travelling and touring really focusses the mind on playing your instrument, without the domestic pressures like housework/children/homework etc…! All the amazing concert halls that exist around the world are wonderful to visit and play in.

  • What are the pros and cons of your work hours? 

It’s been hard getting a social life at times when other people have ‘normal’ 9-5 jobs and of course want to socialise on weekends, that our work is compulsorily evenings and weekends, is hard for other people to understand and a shame when you might miss out on wedding invitations, kids birthday parties, school events. But we do basically perform at night later in the week, like restauranteurs and other entertainment industry jobs, with rehearsals during the day in the earlier part of the week. Australian orchestras don’t have to do so many late night coach journeys as English orchestras, that’s for certain!

  • What’s been your most embarrassing musical experience? 

Most embarrassing musical experience- could be, being heavily pregnant for the first opening of the Welsh National Assembly, around 2002, with the Queen as special guest. There was a  huge national live TV broadcast from two stages at Cardiff Bay, one was the classical stage, one was for the pop bands, and it went on for much longer than we realised and I had to sit for a very long time…. I was keen to get up and move (especially towards the Ladies) so in-between our numbers I planned an exit route which would take me down the stairs to the changing rooms and back in time for the net item, but just as I was about to make a dash for it, the TV presenter (Hugh Scully) suddenly appeared in a massive spotlight to give a live address, exactly where I was aiming. So I had to quickly change my plans…!

  • What’s the best advice you’ve been given by a fellow musician? 

The best advice I had ever been given was ‘don’t turn around’ to stare behind you- seems obvious really but it’s definitely good advice. Also ‘don’t forget to blow’: classic teaching (but very necessary) and finally ‘be very careful where you put your case in a new dressing room’. Best way to annoy people who have been working i the same venue for years is to take their cherished spot on the unpacking table…. 

  • If you had your life over again... what would you do differently? 

My life has evolved in unexpected ways- still is- you never know where it might take you next. I never thought I would find myself living in Adelaide  but it is a very nice surprise. The only things I would do differently concern house purchases- but that’s easy with the benefit of hindsight!  I am very lucky with my husband and children and to be honest, I’d happily do it all again exactly the same- even the tough bits like commuting for five months from Wales to London with tiny children at home: it’s the tough parts that make you appreciate the good life….

Meet Celia in our free webinar on June 9th 10am BST. Apply for a place here 

About Celia_Craig

Principal Oboe of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Celia was previously principal Cor Anglais of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London. She talks to us about her musical upbringing and life as a principal.

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