Meet Aaron Hill

Reno Phil Oboist
Photo by Katrin Fox
Photo by Katrin Fox

What year did you join the orchestra?
I started playing with the Reno Phil when I moved here in the summer of 2018.

How long have you been playing music?
I started playing piano when I was 4 years old, and took up the oboe when I turned 13.

How did you pick your instrument?
When I was in 7th grade, my school hired their first dedicated instrumental music teacher, Leslie Sigmund, to start a program from scratch. The ensemble started with eight kids in a storage room, and the way Leslie developed the program over the next six years continues to inspire how much I enjoy being a part of growing musical organizations. I played flute, but so did someone else, so sometimes I was given oboe parts to cover. I didn’t know what the oboe was, but I asked if I could try it. Soon after starting, I got involved with local youth orchestras, and I enjoyed how the scarcity of oboists allowed me to play with more experienced musicians, and how the oboe’s role in the orchestra always feels like playing large chamber music.

I’m an Assistant Professor in the Department of Music at the University of Nevada, Reno. I teach oboe, classical saxophone, chamber music, and woodwind methods.

When you’re not playing with the Reno Phil, what would we most likely see you doing in your free time?
I have a high energy two-year-old, so a lot of my free time is spent at our gorgeous local parks and hiking trails. I pursue social justice through civic engagement and I teach Sunday school at Temple Sinai Reno.

What genre of music are you most excited to play?
During the pandemic, I started tinkering with playing jazz on the oboe. I enjoy the lifelong learning that comes with being a musician, so I’ve been taking improvisation lessons with my UNR jazz colleague, Josh Reed. When it’s going well, even for fleeting moments, it feels like playing Bach.

What is your favorite piece of all time to play, and why?
Mozart’s Oboe Quartet in F Major is always pure joy to get to play. I’ve probably played it more than any piece and I like it even more every time.

If you could meet one composer/musician, who would it be and why?
I’m fascinated with Charles Mingus’ music and if he were still alive, I wonder what he’d be doing and what kind of collaborative role I could have as an oboist if we worked together.

What is your favorite vacation spot?
The most beautiful place I’ve ever been was when I spent seven weeks in Banff, Alberta for a summer music festival. I’d love to go back at some point.

What do you think the audience would find surprising about you?
I love doing impressions and I used to think being in the cast of Saturday Night Live was my dream job. Now that I have a kid, my most convincing, frequently practiced imitation is my Elmo voice.

What about performing live music brings you joy?
I’m a big believer in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow Theory, and musical interactions are my favorite way to experience full mental immersion so that all of my processing power is devoted to something that’s such a perfect balance of the right and left brain hemispheres. When music is happening fluently, petty worries can disappear, even if just for that stretch of time. Having an audience present for the experience to be shared makes it infinitely more memorable and enduring. When I record in a studio or practice alone, I constantly try to imagine an audience being present, and I always try to make a sound that can be appreciated by someone sitting in the back row.