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Love, harmony and beauty



Stella Dickinson. Photo copyright (c) Sheila Burnett

Stella started to play the oboe at 13, training initially at the Leeds College then studying under the late Janet Craxton, Principal Oboe with the BBC Symphony Orchestra then the London Sinfonietta, and Michael Dobson at the Royal Academy of Music, winning the Harold Craxton Prize and numerous other awards. Continuing with Michael Winfield, formerly with the Hallé then the Philharmonia (cor anglais) and John Barnett (Principal Oboe at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden for over 20 years until his retirement), she also played for international master classes, finally completing postgraduate training at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama under Richard Simpson (Principal Oboe, BBC Symphony Orchestra).

Extremely versatile, she became Principal Oboist with Lontano and the Rambert Dance Company, made recordings for Radio 3, worked as a session musician, performed at London's South Bank and the Wigmore Hall, providing 'jingles' for Classic FM and TV commercials, forming her own Trio 'Stellar' heard on Radio 2 and at festivals in Norway, the USA and Ireland. No stranger to the London orchestras in her freelance career - particularly the New Queens Hall, BBC Symphony and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, travels have taken her far and wide - the Far East, America, Africa, throughout Europe. What attracted her to the instrument in the first place?

'The sound. At primary school, the radio schools programme always started with an instrumentalist, then the announcer told us who it was and what they were playing. The class were settling down and I was hiding behind my desk sharing a joke, when the sound of music engaged me, but because I had the giggles the teacher thought I was not paying attention: "Well, Stella, can you tell me what instrument that was?" Much to my surprise and everyone else's, I replied as quick as a flash: "Yes, that was Leon Goossens playing the oboe!", although I had no idea what one looked like. Forgetting about it, I went to grammar school where all 600 pupils had to learn the recorder in their first year, the music master believing that there was a bit of music in everyone. An Adler recorder cost £2 - we all had to get one - my parents laughed, then Mum would help me pick out pop and TV theme tunes and write them down.

'I took them to class lessons. My friend and I wanted to join the school band, so the school eventually bought an oboe - a terrible old military instrument, a semi-tone flat with none of the keys in the right place for the fingering chart - shared it, eventually began to squabble, at which point the peripatetic teacher with the wonderfully appropriate name of Joe Blewitt informing us that there was a flute available. One of us could play that instead; a coin was tossed. Apparently I had won! A late starter, I got through Tune a Day in three weeks flat - it must have sounded like the bagpipes!

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Copyright © 23 May 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK



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