Reflection on a journey, excitement for the future

Oboist and MSU alumna Sarah Lewis on the DSO and how she got there.

2009 MSU College of Music alumna Sarah Lewis is the Second Oboe and Maggie Miller Chair with the with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. She studied at MSU under Professor Jan Eberle.
Professor of Oboe and Chair of the MSU Woodwinds Area Jan Eberle works with graduate student Yoo Jin Roh. Sarah Lewis credits Eberle with encouraging her to focus on orchestra performance.
In line with Sarah Lewis' goal of working hard but also working smart, Professor Jan Eberle has perfected a method of reed making that she teaches all of her students.

Detroit Symphony Orchestra musician Sarah Lewis remembers the exact moment she knew she wanted to be a performer. It was on stage while she performed the Mozart Oboe Concerto with the Michigan State University Symphony Orchestra.

Though she arrived at the MSU College of Music intending to major in music education, an idea to switch majors came from her professor, Jan Eberle, professor of oboe and chair of the Woodwinds Area.

“I said, ‘Sarah, the performing orchestra field needs players like you,’” Eberle said. “’I know it will be a difficult decision to leave music education, but please give it some thought.’”

Lewis did, and soon after she auditioned into the MSU Symphony Orchestra, a position often won by graduate students. She graduated in 2009 with a degree in oboe performance. While studying at MSU, she won the Honors Competition and was awarded the Louis Sudler Prize for outstanding achievement in the arts.

“I quickly fell in love with playing in orchestra, and I am so glad that I took Professor Eberle’s advice to make the switch,” Lewis said.

Lewis was a long-time Spartan fan even before starting at MSU. While in high school she was inspired by MSU professors John Madden and Eberle when she participated in the MSU Honors Band. She also looked up to the Spartan Marching Band, an ensemble that she was able to later join during her student years. 

From MSU, Lewis went on to earn her master’s degree from The Julliard School and win a position with the Toronto Symphony in 2012. It was in the spring of 2017 that she began her audition process for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, joining the official roster in the fall of that same year. She is currently the Second Oboe and Maggie Miller Chair with the DSO.

Her journey as a performer has included guest appearances with several orchestras and performances at major festivals. A native of Petoskey, Michigan, Lewis spends her summer months performing in the Festival Napa Valley and the Classical Tahoe Orchestra in Nevada.

Her passion for music education remains. She teaches oboe privately, has guest lectured at MSU and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, and says she continues to learn and overcome obstacles.

“I try to remind myself to work hard and also to work smart,” Lewis said.

Like many professional oboe players, Lewis’ work does not stop after rehearsal but continues with hours of practice and reed making. After years of hard work and focus, she enjoys sharing advice with young performers.

”Try to keep your priorities in mind and shut out anything that is just a waste of time or energy,” she said. “Also, know that there is no shame in changing career paths if you're doing it for the right reasons.”  

Now, almost ten years since her graduation from the College of Music, Lewis can reflect on her alma mater and the exciting changes occurring with the expansion of facilities.

“I was excited to hear about the new Billman Music Pavilion!” Lewis said. “A beautiful acoustic makes practicing and rehearsing not only more fun, but much more effective. I’m happy for the students who will get to experience this new facility, and I’m sure it will help them reach even greater levels of excellence.”

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