Edmonds native specializes in baroque oboe performance, as well as making and selling oboe reeds.

Share story

Kristin Olson

What do you do? I am an oboist specializing in historical performance. I split my time primarily between performing 17th, 18th and 19th century music on period oboes, running an online oboe-reed-making store, helping to manage several performing ensembles and teaching/lecturing about historical performance, oboe performance and reed making.

How did you get started in that field? In college as an oboe performance major, I started listening to recordings of Bach and Handel on historical instruments. I fell in love with the sound and the style, but I didn’t know how to explain what the differences really were. I knew I wanted to study baroque oboe, but it wasn’t until about 10 years later that I found myself in a master’s degree program at Juilliard specializing in baroque oboe. I was in heaven.

What’s a typical day like? One recent day, I woke up in a beautiful hotel room in Victoria, B.C., rehearsed some exquisite music by Handel with wonderful musicians and performed a concerto with the Pacific Baroque Festival in the evening. The next day, I trudged through the sleet and snow in New York City trying to get a dozen packages of oboe reeds out to my customers before the post office closed. There is no typical!

What’s the best part of the job? The feeling of standing to play a solo by Bach in a concert surrounded by favorite colleagues is a warm, exciting and sometimes terrifying experience that I cannot live without. If you watch, you’ll often see musicians on stage make eye contact with one another, exchanging smirks and raised eyebrows right before a big moment. It’s that feeling of communication, understanding, sharing and creativity that I get from performing that makes everything worth it. Music is thrilling.

What surprises people about your work? The oboes used in the 18th and 19th century were very different from those at the Seattle Symphony. The technology of instrument building combined with different musical demands and aesthetic tastes of each generation produced very different instruments across the orchestra. The sound and technique of each oboe are different, but really perfect for the music they are meant to play.

Do you have a cool job or know someone in the Puget Sound area who does? Email us with your recommendations for people to feature in Cool Jobs.