AYO alumnus Toshiyuki Hosogaya has just won a permanent position as Second Oboe with the Philharmonie Südwestfallen in Germany. Almost five years ago, he was performing festivals in the same country on the AYO International Tour, where this cultural experience gave him a taste of life as a professional musician abroad.
Read all about his experiences with AYO, tips on working towards an orchestral career and the importance of personal growth.
What made you choose the Philharmonie Südwestfallen in Germany?
To tell you the truth, due to the pandemic I was very keen to find a permanent position in any orchestra in the world and then came this audition with the Philharmonie Südwestfallen, which was so far the only audition this year and might still be for months to come.
I didn’t know too much about the orchestra beforehand, but one of the greatest things I discovered recently was Chief Conductor Nabil Shehata is former Principal Double Bass of the Berlin Philharmonic, and as a student of Daniel Barenboim he is one of the best emerging conductors today. It’s one of the things I love about being a musician in Europe, there are world-class musicians literally in every corner of the country!
As you progressed through the AYO pathway – from your first AYO Young Symphonists through to the AYO International Tour five years ago – what did you learn along the way?
Music is always about making connections. In an orchestral context, solos passages are the end of the scoring chain in soccer for example – you are the one who kicked the ball in the goal but leading up to the goal was equally important work done by all other players in the team.
I won’t go into the technical details of orchestral playing here, but through intensive and extensive training programs at AYO I was given access to every possible skill needed to be a good orchestral musician, both on a personal and musical level.
After performing in festivals across Germany on the tour, what led you to pursuing an orchestral career over there?
It has always been my dream to go to Europe for studies and to get a job in an orchestra there. I remember telling my teacher at the time at the Sydney Conservatorium, Alexandre Oguey, ‘I want to get a job in a good orchestra in Europe, so please teach me how I can achieve this goal’.
Once I was actually on the AYO International Tour in 2016, working with maestro Manfred Honeck and listing to the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in Germany’s Kissinger Sommer the night before our concert, I felt even more strongly that I had to be a musician in Europe.
Not only is it where most of the classical music was originally written and performed but I felt every figure and phrase told a story and that was fundamentally different to what I knew. It wasn’t that the level is higher in Germany, it was just so different and it somehow made me want to discover more.
In light of the many restrictions over the past year, what changes have you made to enable you to continue working at your craft?
To be honest, I was exhausted from the pressure of playing as a contract musician in different operas every week, alongside lessons with my professor and auditions. There was one week where I played an audition on a Monday, rehearsed for an opera all day Tuesday, performed Gala concerts Thursday to Friday and did another audition on Sunday. I was literally just playing the oboe and sleeping. So when the Opera House in Duisburg decided to cancel all the upcoming concerts, I was quite relieved!
Since the first lockdown in March 2020 I was able to focus on personal growth, as I’d never had so much time in my life. Diana Doherty once told me, ‘Life is like a round-graph. In order to improve one aspect of your life, you need to also improve every other aspect, so it stays rounded. Otherwise, the improved aspect will eventually go back to how it was – and the graph remains round.’ So I read many books, studied scores and read biographies of composers. I also spent time revisiting my hobbies and developed new ones.
For our current and future musicians, what advice would you give to them on making it in a professional orchestra?
If you’re looking to get a job in an orchestra, I have good news and bad news:
- The bad news is – it is very difficult statistically speaking
- The good news is – that doesn’t matter
You only need to think about improving yourself as a musician and as a person then, before you know it, the job will come to you.
I want to personally emphasise; you need to be thankful every step of the way even when things are going ‘south’. You need to be thankful to those who helped you, for the opportunities to play, whether they’re auditions, concerts, exams or unpaid. People and opportunities come where they’re appreciated, so they will come if you’re quite simply a grateful person.
A talent or ability you need is to never give up the want to finish the race, no matter what. I think it was classical pianist Rubinstein who said to one of his students, ‘I can tell you how to play but I cannot tell you how to want to play.’
What’s a surprising passion of yours outside of music?
I speak a bit of Russian now. Since March 2020 I’ve been taking lessons on Skype every week and have been enjoying it very much. Another is not exactly outside of music but I recently started playing Balalaika, a Russian folk guitar.
What are you most excited about ahead of performing in the wind section?
I am most excited about finding out this orchestra’s own character. Every orchestra has a certain character that has developed over time as a result of chemistry among the players, so for me it’s like a fingerprint of the orchestra. It may not be obvious when you listen to a recording but playing in a section you can feel it immediately. I am really excited to see what it’s like to fit in with this orchestra!