Audrey Dignan, ’11, started playing the clarinet in the fourth grade because, when she took the saxophone home, it was bigger than she was.

An environmental studies major and a music minor, Dignan is now the principal oboist in the University Orchestra. She is also a Richmond Artist Scholar–which, in addition to being an honor, brings with it one of the university’s highest merit scholarships.

“In the fourth grade, I was told that if I played clarinet, I could go into saxophone a year later,” Dignan said. “I played for two years, and at the end of fifth grade all the schools in my school district got together and played in a megaband concert—fifth graders, eighth graders, and 12th graders. I realized during the concert that I was one of 50 people playing the same instrument. I didn’t feel like I made a difference.”

Her teacher suggested Dignan try the oboe and she hasn’t wanted to play anything else since. Her senior recital is this Saturday, and she has spent the past 11 years, but especially this past semester, preparing for it.

“When I’m practicing, I thoroughly enjoy it,” Dignan said. “I can really forget about everything—it’s not super relaxing, but I can get into my zone and my own work mode. I generally come out of it feeling really satisfied.

“I need an open amount of time to sit and really practice and focus. It’s not something I can hurry. I need to get done what I need to get done, and I only really feel that way about my music. Generally, when I go to the library it’s harder for me to focus and get things done but when I’m practicing, I can really focus in on accomplishing what I need to accomplish.”

Dignan worked at a camp in Colorado this past summer and said she didn’t even bring her oboe along. However, back at Richmond, she has progressed to two or three hour-long rehearsals each day, as well as one hour of her own practice time. She is also a member of Green UR, Delta Delta Delta sorority and club swimming.

“Oboe has been a constant in my life,” Dignan said. “Music, oboe and orchestra have always been this big part of me. Now, as a senior, I’m asking myself, ‘Well, what is my next step?’ and I’m not really sure what that is right now. The oboe might take a backseat for a little while to a job and life after college, but I still really want to play.

“I am going to bring it with me wherever I end up and see what the opportunities for music are when I get there.”

Dignan credits the Department of Music with helping her succeed during her academic career at Richmond. When she decided to perform a Bach concerto for oboe d’amore in her senior recital, the department volunteered to pay for the rental of an oboe d’amore for a month—enough time for her to practice the piece and perform it at her recital on November 20.

In addition to the Bach concerto, Dignan also played a Reinecke trio and a Loeffler trio.

Dignan’s biggest secret to a successful performance—

“I don’t practice on the weekends!” She said laughing. “That’s definitely my time off. I need some breathing room, and I’ve found I play better when I’ve had some time to recharge.”