I am so excited to be bringing back my Spotlight Series! This monthly series features amazing creatives that are doing things THEIR way, and on THEIR terms. Each one of them has contributed to the betterment of their industry by following their dreams as well as their hearts; all the while, listening to their gut instincts.
The series returns today with another inspiring human, oboist, reedmaker, and now author, (and my dear friend) Jennet Ingle.
As an oboist, Jennet has served as Principal Oboist of the South Bend Symphony Orchestra since 2006 and performs as soloist and chamber musician across stages everywhere. She is a teacher, a coach, and a community-builder through her various programs.
In 2020, the most isolating year of our lifetimes, Jennet worked to build a community for oboists. Her signature group program, the Invincible Oboist, demystifies instrumental skills and helps oboists to get past the STRUGGLE to find ease in their playing. She created a Reed Club that meets every Monday for social connection and to discuss details of the reedmaking process. She started a group program for reedmaking beginners, as well – Zero to Reedmaker – which teaches the process through a series of group classes and accountability.
As the owner and operator of Jennet Ingle Reeds, she makes and sells over two hundred handmade reeds every month to oboists all over the world and has helped hundreds of people with their own reed-making through her video series, The Five Minute Reedmaker, her weekly online Reed Club and annual live Oboe Reed Boot Camps.
In her spare time, Jennet pours her energy into Prone Oboe, a blog about her active life and a behind-the-scenes look at the process of learning, teaching, and performing music at a high level. She sends a weekly email newsletter filled with ideas for her community – about the intersections of oboe, life, and entrepreneurship.
I had the chance to ask Jennet about her approach to music-making, entrepreneurship, what inspires her, and her incredible new book: The Happiest Musician (which you should all run out and get immediately!)
TFTL: Where do you live and what is your favorite thing about living there?
JI: I live in South Bend, IN. It’s a really NICE city, and I live very close to a riverside path where I can run in nature every day. I like my orchestra here and the cost of living is VERY low which made it possible to get comfortable fast and build our lives easily.
TFTL: At what age did you start playing the oboe? Were you naturally drawn to it, or was it something that someone suggested you try?
JI: I was ten, in my fifth-grade band program. I knew it was my instrument the moment I heard it! I was lucky to have a real oboist teaching woodwinds in my elementary school, so I was set up with good fundamentals from the beginning and no one told me it was hard.
TFTL: When/How/Why did you decide to write a book? Was it outside your comfort zone or something you had some familiarity with already?
JI: The idea came out of a coaching session and felt immediately resonant. I’d always been a reader, and books have been so influential for me, and I wanted a way to make an impact. I had been blogging for a long time – ever since my child was a baby – and I was writing all the time, so 650 words at a time felt really comfortable to me. The idea of making an outline and writing something long-form was new but not unreasonably new – musicians are comfortable with taking big projects and breaking them down into manageable tasks, so it was easy to imagine my first steps and just start.
TFTL: I get a lot of requests from high school and conservatory students to give them a taste of what different career paths really look like. What does a typical month of work look like for you?
JI: It’s a lot. I spend ten or twelve hours every week on my reed business – making the reeds and sorting them. I have someone who does the shipping for me, which saves me HOURS. I spend ten hours or so teaching and coaching, between one-to-one sessions and group programs. I try to create something every day, whether that’s a blog post, a video, an email to my list… but of course, I also have to practice my instrument and go to actual gigs. As a freelancer, this means a different orchestra and challenge each week! This month I’m playing a video game concert this week, a recital and a cirque concert next week, two recitals the following week, and a masterworks concert after that.
TFTL: Did you always have a clear picture of what you wanted your career to look like?
JI: I always knew that my life would revolve around the oboe. I didn’t realize when I was younger that that would include playing it, speaking and teaching about it, writing about it, making reeds for it, and running the business I’m currently running. It was simpler in my head when I assumed that all I would do is sit in an orchestra playing solos. But I also feel like that simple idea would have bored me and burned me out.
TFTL: What were some of the obstacles that you faced in your path towards becoming a professional musician?
JI: I had assumed that in order to be a “real” professional musician I had to start by winning an audition into a “real” orchestra. And I was out on the audition circuit for YEARS, being in the finals, being the runner-up, winning little jobs but not big jobs. I was successfully making my full-time living as an oboist years before I actually believed that I was successful.
TFTL: What do you think it takes to “make it” in today’s classical music world?
JI: It takes creativity. It takes being willing to think outside the box – in the way you teach, the way you practice, the way you help to publicize events you are involved with and the way you look at the big picture as you start your own projects. We were raised to learn and play the notes on the page, but we need more than just that skill – we need to be COMMUNICATORS.
TFTL: Practicing: Love it or hate it? What do you find is the most challenging aspect of it?
JI: I love it. I wish I had more time to do it. Digging into interesting challenges on the instrument is a reliable path into the FLOW state for me, and I crave this state of pleasurable work. There are so many other claims on my time – as a business owner, a teacher, a coach, a mother – and practicing nearly always feels like the lowest priority of the day. Making myself prioritize the creative work of practicing, which is important but rarely urgent, is the greatest challenge.
TFTL: Do you have a morning ritual or routine to get you going each day? Can you share some of it with us?
JI: I start with coffee and journaling. It feels really important to me to get my mind clear and my day planned before I start. I also try to get outside as early as possible every day, especially in the winter. Sunshine is really important for my mental health, and it’s hard to come by in Indiana!
TFTL: What is your favorite thing about attending (not performing in) a classical music concert these days?
JI: There’s a lot that really annoys me about the way classical music concerts are run – the stuffiness, the rituals – but what I love is watching real humans work to create beauty, work to do something supremely difficult and athletic and artistic, and work to overcome their own mental and physical obstacles to SHARE something with the audience. I love this dance, I love it every time.
TFTL: What 5 things are always in your carry-on when you’re traveling?
JI: A book. My journal. My computer so I can create whatever occurs to me and be in touch with the world. A tarot deck. And lotion because I hate it when my hands and face feel dry.
And where else can people find you?
Would you love to transform your creative career into something you truly love? Are you unsure where to even start? I’ve got you covered. These are the exercises I use for myself and my clients to help us see new opportunities and possibilities. You can grab it here for free today.