The Baylor Symphony Orchestra did its version of a 21-gun send-off in its April 26 concert, only it was a section of 37 oboes that provided the musical firepower.
The subject of the salute was Baylor oboe professor Doris DeLoach, retiring this spring from the Baylor School of Music faculty and the Waco Symphony Orchestra after a remarkable 45 years with both.
The Waco Symphony Orchestra acknowledged her years of service at its last concert, honoring her and other WSO musicians marking milestones with the symphony (the others: bassoonist Ann Shoemaker, 10 years; cellist Dwight Anderson and trumpeter Wiff Rudd, 15; and bass player Kyp Green, 30).
Baylor Symphony and conductor Stephen Heyde took the occasion of the BSO concert for its tribute, with Handel's Overture to “Music for the Royal Fireworks” in the evening program. The work was originally scored for 24 oboes — 24! — and when former Baylor oboe students were contacted about playing in tribute, they swelled the final number of oboists to 37.
For those of us who know Doris, though, that number is a fraction of the universe of people affected by her, her music and her teaching. I’ve known her and her husband David almost since I moved to Waco in the mid-’80s and met them at Seventh & James Baptist Church. They were kind, generous, supportive and musical members of Seventh then and continue to be to this day.
I've heard Doris play with the WSO all that time, too, in addition to the occasional solo or ensemble at Seventh and can't recall any time where her performance was never dead-on perfect in tone, temperament and interpretation. That is, in a word, remarkable. In three words, remarkable and beautiful.
Her students and colleagues — and maybe 37 oboists — can speak to this better than I, but Doris never seemed to have the overblown ego that sometimes accompanies excellence in the music world. She has the qualities one would always want in a teacher or mentor: always for her students, always caring, always pushing for the better.
Oboists usually sit at the heart of an orchestra, behind the strings, in front of the horns and usually not in the spotlight. Forty-five years of service and lovely music deserve a spotlight, though, as does a person of character in a world where a lack of character seems increasingly a norm.
Happy retirement, Doris. Blow, oboes, blow.