How Oboist Audrey Yu (M.M. ’19, P.D. ’21) Keeps Going

By Kylie Madry ’18

Step one: put on pants.

Audrey Yu (M.M. ’19, P.D. ’21) starts small in the mornings, now that the world’s been flipped upside down.

Then, “I get my butt kicked,” she says with a chuckle, after taking up morning Insanity workout classes to stay active.

For the musician, cancelled rehearsals, auditions and concerts are no excuse – she’s still playing the oboe up to four or five hours a day from her Dallas apartment. Her whole studio – Yu and five other oboe players – has moved online along with all other classes at SMU.

“The good thing about music is that you can do it anywhere,” she explains, although that hasn’t come without some technical difficulties.

Meadows student Audrey Yu

After attempting lessons through Zoom, she and her oboe teacher, Professor Erin Hannigan, have taken to FaceTime to fight lag – something plaguing all musicians now, as they try to keep performing together from home.

Some things – like a 40-person orchestra – can’t be moved online, though, so the musicians are prerecording performances.

In March, Professor Hannigan noticed her students were feeling down, facing the uncertainty of the remaining school year – “she could tell people could use music,” Yu said.

So the two of them, along with Max Adler (M.M. ’21) and Ivy Carpenter (M.M. ’20), decided to have a little fun. Yu had already put together an arrangement earlier in the year of “Gabriel’s Oboe” for Hannigan’s Artists for Animals benefit concert, so they recorded the song using the popular Acapella app.

“And it just kind of blew up,” Yu said, after the recording was posted on social media.

Since then, they’ve gotten together (virtually, of course) for more pieces, like Schubert’s An Die Musik (“To Music”) and Im Abendrot (“In the Evening Glow”) and Silvestrini’s Le Ballet Espagnol and Boulevard des Capucines.  

Being away from the normal rush of auditions and shows has “weirdly been healing,” Yu said. “It’s really been a time to allow yourself to grow,” she explained, away from the usual pressure musicians face. “It’s a time to fall in love with your instrument again.”

To other musicians facing the same situation, Yu says it’s OK not to be productive 24/7. “Just be kind to yourself, and give yourself time to process what’s going on,” she says.

And for non-musicians, “Give yourself a shot! What better time to pick up that guitar than now?”

While Yu says she does miss performing for an audience, she hopes patrons return to shows once they’re back on – including her millennial and Gen Z companions who’ve largely been turned off by the performing arts.

“I hope people are realizing now that we’re just people in our pajamas playing for our cats,” she says. “The only difference is that on stage we’re dressed up in monkey suits.”

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