Like/Dislike: Katherine Needleman, BSO musician

  • Katherine Needleman, principal oboe with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and "Big Love" fan.
Katherine Needleman, principal oboe with the Baltimore Symphony… (Vanessa Briceno )
May 29, 2012|By Jordan Bartel

"It was a compulsion. I had no other choice," Katherine Needleman said regarding what lead her down the path to a career in music. "I would've been a pianist except my technique was too limited."

Though she's experimented with many other instruments, Needleman, 34, who moved from Iowa to Ellicott City when she was 7 and now lives in Dickeyville, finally settled on the oboe while at college and has been the principal oboist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra since 2003. Since that time, she was been a part of nearly all BSO performances and is especially looking forward to playing the Strauss Concerto next season.

So how does one get lucky enough to land a gig with the BSO? "I took an audition for any job I could get until I got a good one," she said. We're sure her talent helped as well. Needleman put down the oboe for a bit to talk to b about her most thrilling concert, her supposed lack of fashion sense and more.

Worst pet peeve?
Bad spelling, grammar, and confusing homophones in English when that person's first language is English.

What song are you hating/loving right now?
Loving "We Built This City" by Starship. Actually, I love the whole new Muppets album.

Last concert/gig you went to?
Beethoven 9 with the BSO

Your worst habit?
I'm OCD with regard to oboe reeds.

Most thrilling BSO concert you've played in?
There have been so many high points I can't just choose one, but Beethoven 9 with Peter Oundjian was great. Swan Lake and some of the Shostakovich Symphonies with Yuri Temirkanov are unforgettable for me.

TV shows you can't get enough of?
I haven't watched TV for years. But I did really enjoy "Big Love." My husband loves "Curb Your Enthusiasm," but I can't watch it because it makes me so uncomfortable. Larry David is a lot like my father.

Biggest misconception about BSO musicians?
That we work only part time and have other "real" jobs. We maybe only have 24 hours of work at the symphony hall per week, but there is a tremendous amount of work required at home.

Favorite book you recently read?
"Cutting for Stone," by Abraham Verghese

Instrument you've always wanted to try?
I think I've tried all the ones I want to. My husband had a bagpipe lesson set up for me for my birthday (I think this was more a present for himself), but the guy didn't show up.

Last great meal you had?
That's a tie between Kajitsu in New York and split pea soup and homemade bread I made with my two little girls.

Food you hate?
I'm not a hater. I love to eat. I'm a vegetarian and that often comes off as high maintenance, so I eat anything as long as it didn't come from an animal.

Favorite place to get a drink?
One World Cafe

If you could hear one piece of music for the rest of your life, which would it be?
The Mozart C Minor Piano Concerto (K. 491)

Favorite and most loathed fashion statements?
I don't really have any fashion statements. I think some of my friends submitted me to "What Not to Wear."

Favorite thing about Baltimore?
Gwynns Falls Trail


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