Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.
Sometimes all the pieces just fall into place.
And sometimes you’re in the right place at the right time.
All those old sayings could be applied to junior oboist Jordan Pyle.
Saturday night, April 2. Pyle and a friend of hers are in the mezzanine at Boettcher Concert Hall. It’s intermission during a Colorado Symphony concert, and they’re getting excited about the symphony’s second-act performance with innovative banjo player Béla Fleck.
Pyle’s phone buzzes. It’s oboe professor and principal oboe of the symphony, Peter Cooper, texting her.
“Can you come backstage right away?”
Pyle’s a Colorado native who paid frequent visits to Boettcher Concert Hall growing up. She's played once on this stage before, back in March. Never, in all her time sitting in the audience, did she dream she’d be onstage with the Colorado Symphony with 10 minutes’ notice.
But that’s exactly what happened on April 2.
In circumstances that almost seem hard to believe, Pyle made her second appearance with the Colorado Symphony sight-reading the second oboe part of Fleck’s “Juno Concerto.”
“I was so surprised,” Pyle says. “I kept thinking, ‘Is this really happening?’”
When the symphony left the stage after the first half of the performance, second oboe Monica Hanulik became ill and had to leave the concert. With only a few minutes to go in intermission, Cooper got out his phone and texted Pyle.
“The only reason he knew I was there that night was because I had texted him when I arrived to see if he wanted to chat afterward,” says Pyle.
After a bit of dumbfounded back and forth, Pyle raced from her upper-level seat to where Cooper was waiting backstage. “I literally ran down the stairs. By the time I got backstage, I heard the chimes letting the audience know there were five minutes left in intermission.”
Cooper gave Pyle an oboe and she prepped a reed as they talked through the piece. “Most of it was in unison, but he specifically pointed out the divisi sections so that I knew where I absolutely had to play.”
With the help of the orchestra manager, she grabbed some concert black and took the stage.
“It was pretty cool to be out there,” says Pyle. “I get kind of a nervous giggle, so when I first got on stage I was just laughing.”
Once the music began, Pyle shook it off and did her job, sight-reading the Colorado premiere of a Béla Fleck original in front of a die-hard audience alongside Colorado’s flagship orchestra.
She’ll tell you the music wasn’t technically difficult, just unusual for all its Fleck-standard 5/4 time and quintuplet runs.
But her professor will tell you it took focus and plenty of skill to pull it off.
“I’ve never had a student have to step in at literally the last moment,” says Cooper. “It shows Jordan is skilled, poised and able to concentrate even when experiencing great stress.”
On top of the live performance, Fleck’s piece was also being recorded. That not only made this one of Pyle’s first professional orchestra concerts but also her first professional recording.
“And that’s not something that would normally happen,” says Associate Professor of Clarinet Daniel Silver. “Ordinarily they’d rerecord, or get a flute player to cover the second oboe part. To play on a recording like this, you have to be well prepared and be able to play at a very high level.”
“I knew, with 100 percent confidence, that she would be able to play the concert successfully,” says Cooper. “All of her hard work in learning to focus her mental and emotional energy was needed to successfully execute this performance.”
Afterward, Pyle says everyone in the symphony was supportive and grateful to her for stepping up. She says she was reminded of a phrase: luck is when opportunity meets preparation.
“It’s lucky that I came to the concert, and lucky that I had texted Professor Cooper to tell him I was there,” she says. “But it’s not luck that I didn’t freak out or play in any rests. That was the preparation.”
Silver says Pyle set an example for students who want create opportunities for themselves.
“If she wasn’t at the concert, she wouldn’t have had an opportunity like this,” he says. “You have to give yourself a chance to practice in high-pressure, professional situations.”
“I believe that when one successfully executes a difficult and stressful task, one can draw upon that in the future when confronted with new challenges,” Cooper adds.
“Saying to yourself, ‘I was able to pull off that … I can certainly do this,’ is very helpful in finding courage.”