Cassie Pilgrim AD ’20 Nets Principal Oboe Position

March 21, 2019
Erich Burnett
oboist Cassie Pilgrim AD '20
Photo credit: Julie Gulenko ’15

Student of Robert Walters will continue at Oberlin while beginning career with St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Cassie Pilgrim found her calling with the oboe in the way that so many young musicians do.

“I had to pick an instrument that would fit in my backpack,” says the native of Atlanta, who began playing at age 10.

“But I was also attracted to the oboe because people said it was too hard to play. And it was really hard to play after all, but I think it was the right match for me.”

At this point it would be difficult to prove otherwise.

In late January, Pilgrim earned the position of principal oboe with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. The offer followed an audition in November 2018 and a three-week trial period in January, capped with a recital for her would-be peers in the orchestra.

oboist Cassie Pilgrim with Robert Walters and Richard Hawkins
Cassie Pilgrim performed with Oberlin faculty Robert Walters (English horn, center) and Richard Hawkins (clarinet, right) in March 2019.  Photo credit: Julie Gulenko ’15 

Within a week, Pilgrim was back in Oberlin to begin the spring semester of her first year in the Artist Diploma program. A student of Professor Robert Walters, she intends to complete her Oberlin degree in 2020 while beginning her work with St. Paul this summer. In March she joined Walters and clarinet professor Richard Hawkins in a performance of Karg-Elert's Trio for Oboe, Clarinet, and English Horn, Op. 49, No. 1 (pictured). The piece was part of a wind faculty recital; Pilgrim was the only student performer.

A 2018 graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, Pilgrim was encouraged to consider Oberlin in part by her Curtis classmate Will Welter AD ’18. Welter also earned an Artist Diploma at Oberlin under Walters; his own prodigious career arc has already landed him in the principal oboe chair with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

From the outset of the fall semester, Pilgrim and Walters turned their focus to the task at hand: her November audition in St. Paul, only the second professional audition she had taken.

“He has been unbelievably generous and dedicated with his time,” she says of Walters. “He knows a lot about the profession because he has obviously been playing in incredible ensembles for a long time. Even more important: He knew what to do with me and how to convince me that I was capable of success. That I didn’t have to fake anything. That I have a voice, and he just encouraged me to use my voice.”

And it’s more than just her professor, she adds.

“Oberlin is very supportive and very collaborative. I feel like one person’s victory is every person’s victory here, and everyone is there for you. I have truly felt that here, and I really appreciate it.”

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