Student oboist finds her balance to blow away competition

By Emily Adams

Arlington senior Brittany Bonner’s great balancing act isn’t what won her the Baylor Concerto Competition in January. The music education major, who juggles volunteering and leadership roles with a full practice schedule, took the winning title at the competition with her performance of David Mullikin’s “Concerto for Oboe.”

The Baylor University Concerto Competition is considered by many music students as the most prestigious competition on campus, drawing top instrumentalists from the woodwind, brass, piano and string divisions of the School of Music. On Jan. 13, music students competed to be one of eight finalists among 24 solo performers. Those eight performed their concertos for judges from universities across the nation just 10 days later. Bonner took the first place title, and will be recognized by performing the winning piece, Mullikin’s “Concerto for Oboe,” with the Baylor Symphony Orchestra in the fall.

Bonner started playing the oboe 11 years ago at the start of middle school. She tried several instruments before choosing the oboe. Her teacher told Bonner the woodwind instrument would be the hardest to learn, because of the amount of air players must blow through its double reed. Bonner fell in love with the instrument anyway. Now she spends roughly 18 to 20 hours a week practicing and making her own reeds for the oboe.

In addition to her practice schedule, Bonner has held several leadership roles in many areas, including as the drum major of the Golden Wave Band. She is active in Mu Phi Epsilon, the professional music fraternity, having served as chaplain, vice president and president. She also has participated in OsoMusical, an organization that teaches weekly music classes to special needs children.

“Brittany is extraordinary in that she is organized enough to do all of those things and maintain an excellent GPA,” said professor of oboe Doris DeLoach. “Talent is part of her success, but talent without hard work accomplishes little. I count it a privilege to call her my student.”

Being a music education major, a discipline she chose so she could play while serving other people, Bonner said some might be surprised that she outperformed students studying instrumental performance.

“I don’t remember the last time a music education major won the Concerto Competition,” Bonner said.

Stephen Heyde, conductor of the Baylor Symphony Orchestra said he is not surprised by Bonner’s win in the slightest.

“Brittany has set a high standard of excellence in the most gracious and non-arrogant way possible,” Heyde said. “She is always supportive of her colleagues and makes everyone around her better. She is an exceptional person in every way.”