Joshua Oates is a Sydney-based oboist and an alumnus of the Elder Conservatorium in Adelaide, where he graduated with first-class honours.

In addition to completing the prestigious Sydney Symphony Orchestra Fellowship Program and performing with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Joshua's professional experience includes playing guest principal in the Adelaide and Queensland Symphonies and the Opera Australia Orchestra. 

In 2018, with the support of a Cultural Trust grant, Joshua travelled to Europe to undertake private lessons with internationally renowned oboe teachers. 

"My main focus is the music schools in Germany, as the style of higher music education in Germany is very different to what is offered in Australia. The schools have a much bigger focus on performing. With the high concentration of distinguished performers, orchestras and students, it provides a much more intensive environment than is currently available to me in Australia."

Joshua’s teachers included Kai Frombgen, Principal Oboe in the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and newly appointed Professor at the Hochschule in Hannover; Philippe Tondre, Solo oboe in SWR Philharmonic Orchestra in Stuttgart, international soloist and Professor at the Hochschule in Saarbrücken; Stefan Schilli, Principal Oboe in Bayerischen Rundfunks Symphony and Professor at the Mozarteum in Salzburg; Christian Wetzel, Professor at the Hochschule in Cologne, and Nora Cismondi, Principal Oboe in the Orchestra de la Suisse Romande.

While in Paris having lessons with Nora Cismondi, he also embraced the chance to reconnect with and observe the classes of David Walter and Jacques Tys at the Paris Conservatoire, and received an invite to return for lessons at any time. An opportunity he would like to explore further, potentially by undertaking an intensive study period or an ERASMUS semester.

Working with leading international professors during his study tour significantly contributed to Joshua successfully auditioning for the Masters of Music at the Hochschule für Musik Saar and München. He also received proof of his improvement through further progress in his following orchestral auditions.

"This trip gave me the opportunity to meet some of the best oboists in Europe, whom I have respected and admired for years. The chance to receive knowledge from these artists to better my craft was a truly invaluable experience. Furthermore, being able to undertake this project has led to the chance to further develop my craft for at least two more years and has opened the door to many exciting professional opportunities. In short, this experience far surpassed my expectations."

Highlights included meeting many of his idols and internationally renowned oboists. Observing the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (COE) was a significant and immersive experience. Not only did Joshua take lessons from principal oboe Kai Frömbgen for a few days in Treviso, but he also saw him in action performing with the COE.

"The opportunity to take lessons with a teacher while also seeing them rehearse and perform is an environment saturated with so much information. You can see directly the results of working on the aspects of playing you talk about in the lessons. I really appreciated Frömbgen’s teaching style for me, the priorities in the music and oboe playing were similarly aligned to my preferences and his never-ending attention to detail was equally inspiring, impressive and intimidating! A truly exceptional experience."

Another highlight was meeting Philippe Tondre, Principal Oboe for the COE and Solo Oboe in the SWR symphony orchestra, who subsequently became Joshua’s teacher in his Masters. Joshua found his lesson with Philippe Tondre invigorating. He felt Tondre saw straight to the aspects of his playing that could be improved while giving him the opportunity to have his own insights into playing and not just follow the direction given. Philippe’s approach to oboe playing was very much in the vein Joshua thrives under, his ability to bring out the best aspects of his playing while pushing him even further was quite apparent very quickly.

To choose between several offers from Hochschule’s was a difficult decision, ultimately for the reasons above Joshua felt best about accepting the offer with Professor Tondre in Saarbrücken. The oboe class in Saarbrücken is quite small, and Philippe’s enthusiasm, dedication and approach gave him the impression that this would be the right path for him for the next two years.

Advice and tips for other grantees

"The one thing I return to as a considerable contributor to my success is the decision I made very early on to reach out to as many contacts and network as possible. Many musicians and colleagues, both in Australia and in Europe, were more than willing to provide me with the support and resources that led to the successes I achieved. Your contacts want to help; many colleagues or peers have experienced similar challenges or difficulties that arise when planning a project like this, and so are very willing to give you tips to help you achieve the most you possibly can, so always ask!

Another important lesson I learned would be to be open to change. My proposal had to become flexible for me to make the most of my opportunities, and in fact, the changes I made in the moment led to some of the most fulfilling experiences I had while I was away. Of course, players of this calibre often have very complex schedules that always need to be flexible, and of course as an individual, to be able to accommodate this shows your dedication to them and also helps you receive the most you possibly can.

Another important bit of advice is to trust yourself. It’s quite common to be faced with very difficult decisions, and I believe the best approach to making them is to find out as much as you can and follow what feels right based on the information you have at that time. It’s so easy to doubt yourself and feel like you are making a bad decision, but in the end, you won’t make a wrong choice, maybe it won’t be so suited, but if you’re open to being flexible, you will always be able to make the best of a situation."