In the Pit: Jennifer Johnson – Passion and Perseverance

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson

“I love the oboe for its many colors and expressiveness. On very rare occasions, when the reed and the instrument are working just right, the instrument becomes an extension of myself. I feel vulnerable, yet I stay in the moment as nerves and distractions disappear. It is an incredible experience!”

The oboe itself is finicky. A screw can come loose, a crack can form, a pad can break off or an adjustment may shift. During performances, Jennifer keeps a tool bag under her chair with screwdrivers and superglue for just those occasions.

Having reeds that work is a constant battle. On some days, Jennifer will spend a good two hours making reeds. Reeds change with temperature, humidity, time played and other factors. While a good reed can last several operas, each one is still a daily gamble.

Jennifer’s start as an oboist was also a bit of a gamble. After studying piano from age six in Grand Junction, Colorado, she decided to join her friends in the middle school band. The director requested that she learn the oboe, asking her if she were up for a challenge. “Little did I know how much of a challenge it would be!”

Click here to read Diane Eisenman’s full article about Jennifer Johnson on

Diane Eisenman received a B.A. in Music Education from St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN, and an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Loyola University of Chicago. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and piano instructor in Pasadena, and uses classical music in her therapy practice. An opera lover, she enjoys writing about the people who make live opera possible.

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