When glancing back through one’s life, its often possible to recognize the interlocking pathways and it’s a good deal of fun to recall the travelers who have shared the journey. Sometimes the pathways merge as they have for Janelle Oberbillig. She has followed two professional paths, one musical, one mathematical. Those paths have linked with the Boise Baroque Orchestra. A founding member of the BBO, Janelle has played under the batons of all of its artistic directors. Now she has a chair in the Orchestra where she continues to play the bassoon, and a chair at the table of the Orchestra’s Board of Directors where she serves as the orchestra representative, and also serves on the finance committee, a great spot for a former accountant and CPA.
Early Interest in Music
Her interest in music did not begin with the bassoon, but rather a fascination with the piano that sat in a childhood friend’s home. Janelle begged her mother for a one of her own. When she was in the fourth grade, her mom surprised her with a rental piano from Dunkley Music. Janelle immediately started private lessons and nearly drove her father (a non-musician engineer) crazy with her practice. After playing the clarinet, then the flute, Janelle shifted her focus to a low-register instrument, the cello. When she was in the seventh grade at South Junior High School, her band director, Harry Simons, asked her to try the bassoon, and she knew she had found her instrument.
Taking a Snow Break
Janelle continued with her immersion in musical activities at Borah High School, where she played bassoon in both the band under the direction of Jim Perkins and the orchestra under the direction of John Hamilton. Instead of tossing her out of class for bad behavior, which she deserved, John Hamilton invited her to be a soloist with the orchestra, performing the Mozart Bassoon Concerto. Then Jim Perkins nominated her, and she was chosen to participate in the McDonald’s All American High School Band. Since bassoonists don’t have a place in marching bands, she played the piccolo for the marching part of that venture. This honor band played a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, then regrouped a few weeks later in Los Angeles to march in the Rose Bowl Parade.
Back to Boise
It was Maestro Daniel Stern, then music director of the Boise Philharmonic, who pulled her back to Boise. He offered her a position in the Boise Philharmonic. While delighted with the chance to perform with the Boise Phil, she quickly realized she would need additional income to make ends meet. She secured a secretarial position that enabled her to keep the rent paid and the lights on. Eventually, Janelle went back to school at Boise State University and earned a second bachelor’s degree, this time in accounting. Janelle was recruited by Hewlett-Packard into what she called her “dream job.” During her time at HP, she met and married a fellow employee, Chris Jones.
She thoroughly loved her many years working in the HP finance department. But, by 2002, Janelle knew she needed to make a change. She thought about leaving HP to teach accounting when she got a call from Jim Cook, chair of the BSU music department. He asked her to teach bassoon at the university. This opportunity changed the direction of her life. She started her bassoon teaching career at BSU with two students. To refresh her teaching skills, she called Ron Klimko, a retired bassoon professor emeritus from the University of Idaho. He was living, snowboarding, and teaching in McCall. He agreed to work with her so she could learn how to teach the bassoon to her new students. Soon, she and Chris were regularly traveling to McCall so she could work with Ron. Much to her surprise, Janelle loved teaching the bassoon students at BSU, and she realized that she had found her new career. In February 2003, with Ron’s encouragement and unwavering support from Chris, she resigned from HP and opened her own business, Brava Bassoon Studio.
Ron also encouraged Janelle to join the International Double Reed Society which holds annual conferences. At the first conference she attended, Ron introduced her to Kathleen Reynolds, bassoon professor at the University of North Texas who, according to Janelle, created the most beautiful music she had ever heard from a bassoon. Janelle convinced Kathleen to work with her, and this time she and Chris loaded up the car and drove to Bozeman, Montana, where Kathleen spent her summers. During their meetings over the next few years, Kathleen generously spent many hours teaching Janelle. During one session, Janelle asked Kathleen how she could motivate her students to practice more. Kathleen’s response changed Janelle’s perspective: “Ah, you think your job is to teach the kids to play bassoon. Yes, but actually your job is to teach them to love music, and to be another role model, other than their parents, who cares about them, and influences their lives for good.”
Becoming a Founding Musician of the BBO
The other opportunity that had a profoundly positive impact on Janelle’s musical life came in the summer of 2003, when Richard Roller called her and asked her to play bassoon in the soon-to-be-established Boise Baroque Orchestra, as one of the founding musicians. She was shocked to get the call from him, and, lacking confidence, was reluctant to accept his offer. In his role as mentor, Ron Klimko pushed her to accept Richard’s offer. Janelle remembers, “He said it was just the opportunity I needed, and he was so right!”
When examining the paths she has explored, Janelle says the emotion she feels most strongly is gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunities that have been hers. Gratitude also for the byroads that have added delight--like the fun of playing in the pit orchestras of two professional traveling performances that had runs in Boise, The Sound of Music and The Phantom of the Opera. Mostly, gratitude for the people she’s encountered, people who have and do guide her, support her, challenge her and bring great joy to her as she journeys through life. Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Janelle. Keep on moving forward and sharing your good influence with others.