- Instrument Principal, Clarinet
Gregory Oakes is an exciting and energetic clarinetist and a passionate champion of the music of our time. From his Carnegie Hall debut with members of Ensemble Intercontemporain and Pierre Boulez to his performances as a member of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Oakes has been praised by critics for his “outstanding performance” (New York Times) and “jazzy flourishes” (Denver Post). American Record Guide says “Oakes is the rare player who has both excellent classical training and a mastery of the otherworldly procedures demanded by non-traditional repertoire,” and Fanfare Magazine lauds the “formidable technical armamentarium at his command.”
A flexible and versatile musician, Mr. Oakes has performed with notable musicians in prestigious venues around the world. He has been a concerto soloist with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and the Denver Brass, performed with Grammy® Award-winner Terence Blanchard at the Telluride Jazz Festival, and appeared at the Chicago Arts Club. His recordings have been released on Bridge, Centaur, CRI, Gothic, Karnatic Lab Records, and Naxos and broadcast on National Public Radio. His recent CD, Aesthetic Apparatus: Clarinet Chamber Music of Helmut Lachenmann, appears on the New Focus Recordings label.
As a soloist, Mr. Oakes has performed at multiple International Clarinet Association ClarinetFests, the University of Oklahoma Clarinet Symposium, the New Music Gathering, the International Computer Music Conference, the Crested Butte Chamber Music Festival, Boulder’s Modern Music Festival (M2F), and the Pendulum New Music Series. An international artist, Mr. Oakes has performed frequently in the Netherlands at Amsterdam’s venerable new music hall De IJsbreker, Gaudeamus Music Week, Concerten Tot en Met, the Karnatic Lab concert series, De Badcuyp, STEIM, and Utrecht’s Theatre Kikker. He has been a featured soloist at the prestigious MaerzMusik festival in Berlin. He has also toured Brazil—performing in Brasília, Rio de Janeiro, and Campinas—and conducted masterclasses at notable Brazilian universities UnB, UNIRIO, and UNICAMP. He was in residence as a guest artist at the MUPA Festival of Contemporary Music in Bangsaen, Thailand. In the summer, Mr. Oakes is on the faculty of The Cortona Sessions festival for new music in Tuscany, Italy.
Mr. Oakes has been a member of several orchestras including the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, Colorado Ballet, Central City Opera, and the Colorado Music Festival. He is currently the principal clarinet of the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra. He is also an active chamber musician. As a founding member of the new music and creative arts ensemble Non Sequitur, he has been in residence at Princeton University, Harvard University, Dartmouth College, and the Aspen Music Festival. Oakes has also performed as a member of the woodwind quintet Category 5 and the award-winning clarinet quartet Ensemble Syzygy.
Mr. Oakes holds a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, a master’s degree from DePaul University, and a doctorate from the University of Colorado. His teachers include Bil Jackson, Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr, and John Bruce Yeh. He has been honored as an Aspen Music Festival Fellow, a Tanglewood Music Festival Fellow, and a Fulbright Scholar Finalist. Mr. Oakes has presented masterclasses at numerous institutions including the University of Michigan, University of California Berkeley, Peabody Conservatory, the Amsterdam Conservatory, and the Aspen Music Festival. He has previously taught at the University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg, MS) and Bemidji State University (Bemidji, MN). Mr. Oakes is on the faculty of Iowa State University (Ames, IA).
Gregory Oakes is a Buffet Group USA and a Vandoren Performing Artist.
Member of the Orchestra since
Most memorable experience with the Orchestra
My first performance with the orchestra was the Des Moines Symphony's Yankee Doodle Pops for Independence Day. I was jet lagged after getting back into town just 12 hours earlier, and the weather was so hot that my clarinet felt hot in my hands. It was a surreal concert!
How I got started playing my instrument
The band director from my local high school in Los Alamos, New Mexico held a summer class that offered 5th graders the opportunity to try all the band instruments to find which one they liked best. I went in thinking I wanted to play trombone (my dad had one in the closet), but I could play "Twinkle Twinkle" on the clarinet, so I went with that.
Favorite solo piece
Eric Mandat's Folk Songs
Running, cooking, yoga, drawing, sculpting, computer programming
Other than classical music _____ is on my iPod