Quinton Bodnár-Smith


Photo by Matt Dine


John Philip Sousa Award, 2016


Berlin Opera Academy, 2022; Saluzzo Opera Academy, 2021; Eastern Music Festival, 2019; UT Bach Cantata Project, 2017–19; Marrowstone Music Festival, 2018

What is your earliest memory of classical music?

My earliest memory is probably learning about the orchestra for the first time in elementary school music class. We watched an old-fashioned slideshow of Peter and The Wolf synced to a soundtrack.

Was there a teacher who was particularly impactful/helpful? What made this instructor stand out?

All of my teachers have helped me to become the musician I am today. In terms of opening new pathways I would say that my graduate school teacher Russ de Luna helped me to find my voice as an English horn player. I always thought it was such a treat to learn from the Solo English horn of the San Francisco Symphony. I remember him telling me the story of how the first week of the job were performances of Symphonie fantastique for the Keeping Score documentaries, and how there were cameras everywhere. What I learn from stories like that is to embrace change and to take challenges head-on.

What made you decide to become a musician? Was there a particular performance or person that influenced your decision?

I was always a good student in my academic courses, and I very well could have chosen a career not in music and do very well, but I always found such satisfaction from music. It was my last two years of high school, and I had the opportunity to play in some school orchestras, band and orchestra camps, and TMEA events, and though I had fun in band, playing in an orchestra was way more novel to me, so I decided to go to school for music. As an oboist straight out of high school I knew nothing about reedmaking, and my undergrad professor Dr. Andrew Parker was extremely helpful in meeting me where I was, and the TAs Dr. Matt Lengas and Aiden Dugan were very helpful in teaching me about reedmaking.

How did you hear about TŌN? What inspired you to apply?

My graduate school teacher Russ de Luna had a former student that was currently in the orchestra, so he knew about TŌN before I did and encouraged me to look into applying.

How would you like to see orchestra concerts evolve in the future?

I think it would be great to see more concerts that involve multimedia. It doesn’t have to be anything state-of-the-art or groundbreaking, it could easily just be a short film or animation that can show a visualization of the music in a way that holds meaning. I also think tickets can and should become less expensive, and dress codes for audience members should eventually fade out.

What is the most memorable performance you ever had?

I got to perform with my teacher in the San Francisco Symphony, and it was The Matrix soundtrack conducted by its composer, Don Davis.

What is your proudest achievement as a musician?

This isn’t necessarily my proudest achievement, but the time I think I shocked myself the most was when I placed first in the English horn audition for Texas Music Education Association’s 2016 All-State.

Is there a person or people you most respect in your field and why?

I would say I’m most in awe of Albrecht Mayer. He has an extensive recording career and all while being principal oboe in Berliner Philharmoniker.

Tell us about a time you almost gave up but didn’t.

I don’t give up, nor do I ever think about giving up. I acknowledge when I can’t do something in the moment, and if that means setting it down and trying the next day, then that is perfectly ok.

Can you share any memorable onstage mishaps?

My glasses fell off my face in my first-year’s Master’s recital.

Do you have a favorite non-classical musician or band?

Hard to decide, but I really like Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, The Kid LaROI, and Post Malone.

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?

Probably something to do with history or languages

What is a surprising part of playing your instrument that you think most people don’t know?

We as oboists make our own reeds!

What is the biggest challenge and/or surprise about playing in an orchestra?

It’s never not a challenge, but I am always shocked by the sort of telepathic communications that occur between players.

What advice would you give your younger self or anyone starting out?

If you can’t be nice to yourself, then how are you going to be nice to somebody else?

What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now?

Don’t practice until you get it right, rather practice until you can’t get it wrong!