July 25: Axl Pons, oboe

Performing: Inner Voices by Mark Kilstofte (1958-

Paired with Artwork: Market Day in the Mountains by James R. Hopkins

Musician’s Statement: As I have now reached the last year of my 20’s, I have started to reminisce on the times of my adolescence, and my yearning to go back; back to a time when things were much simpler. All American oboists have been told the story of the “dancing turkey” through students of Mr. John Mack, former principal oboist of the Cleveland Orchestra, where a turkey is made to dance by lighting a fire underneath a metal floor. I was told of this story by some of my “oboe idols” at a camp in June 2009; a time when I was much younger and way more naïve. Though this story has no real relevance to me personally, it makes me think back to that time…a time when I was on the threshold of adulthood, with no true thoughts or opinions of my own. I realize now that that is what that time was for….to not have an opinion… to not have worries…to let some valuable teachers guide me and help shape my own internal dialogue. As I approach another “age threshold”, the memories and lessons I learned during a much simpler time become more and more distant. And yet, they continue to influence my internal dialogue. So I invite all the listeners today to reminisce of simpler times, and to ponder the experiences of yesteryear and how they continue to manipulate your own inner dialogue today.

About the Music:Inner Voices was written for Petrea Warneck (principal oboist of the South Carolina Philharmonic, and one of Axl Pons’ teachers), in memory of her teacher, the esteemed oboist John Mack. Though I never met him, I feel I have come to know him through his recordings, through Petrea and her colleagues and, in a very real way, by composing this piece.

As the title suggests, the composition is in fact a polyphonic work for solo oboe. (Initially, Petrea learned the piece from my manuscript, which is notated on two, three and, at times, as many as five separate staves.) It also hints at the ways influential people can shape one’s internal dialogue.

To gain a toehold for the project, I decided to use the dates of Mack’s tenure with the Cleveland Orchestra (1965-2001) as a digital soggetto cavatto. Each expository section of the Ricercare (literally “to reach out”) is based on a motive represented by the integers 1, 9, 6 and 5 (C#, A, F#, F), while those of an episodic nature feature 2, 0, 0 and 1 (D, C, C, Db) in various transpositions and transformations. The movement is intended to be both evocative and elegiac – and homage to a beloved mentor and friend – while the form and process epitomize artistic discipline and technique.

In contrast, Turkey Trot reflects both my desire to write a polyphonic companion to the first movement, as well as my fascination with the now-infamous story of the dancing turkey (which I have never witnessed, by the way), so much a part of John Mack lore and legend. Here, too, the idea is to depict polyphonic strata with a single “voice” while maintaining the levity and hilarity of the dance and the tale surrounding it. Were the registral dexterity of the work not demanding enough, the stamina required would make it a tour de force for the oboist.”

Axl Pons is currently principal oboe of the Westerville Symphony, Third Oboe/English Horn of the Ashland Symphony Orchestra, and an associate musician with the Columbus Symphony. He is also a proud member of the Columbus-based Cosa Nostra Reed Quintet. He has also performed with the Dayton Philharmonic, Muncie Symphony, Charleston Symphony, Long Bay Symphony, Cleveland Opera Theater, McConnell Arts Chamber Orchestra and Queen City Opera. He has been invited on numerous occasions to perform at the famed Broadway dinner club, Feinstein’s/54 Below (NY), performing for current Broadway performers. Axl has earned a Master of Music from the Cleveland Institute of Music and a Bachelor of Music from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He also serves as the Education and Operations Manager for the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.