Oboist Keve Wilson is a study on resiliency and staying true to yourself


“You’re not an oboe player, your mouth isn’t right to play the oboe.”

 Almost 20 years after hearing this from an oboe teacher in graduate school, Keve Wilson is every bit an oboe player and plays on the current Broadway hit show, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

It takes a pretty unique personality to hear a criticism like that and not be completely derailed. After meeting Keve in 2012, I soon began to realize what an inspiring, gifted and generous artist I was lucky enough to be spending time with. Keve is one of those people who lives in the moment and is truly herself both as a human and an artist. She creates opportunities for herself and for others with seeming ease. She has been hailed by the New York Times for her “magnificently sweet tone” and has played all over the world. Her repertoire spans the genres from pop to classical to Broadway to her favorite, Irish jigs. Her personality is warm and friendly with a kookiness that matches her mane of gorgeous blonde curly hair. Whenever I watch her play the oboe no matter the venue, I feel deeply that she is exactly where she is meant to be, doing exactly what she should be doing in that moment. She is truly herself. And her unique life and career embodies that sense of self.

Ten years after hearing that awful statement from her professor, Keve got an orchestra gig performing in Germany from a flutist she had worked with. She was offered the opportunity to choose the second oboe player and it was suggested by the conductor that she reach out to that same professor she had had in graduate school. She was to ask him to recommend one of his students. Keve, trusting that 10 years and her career would speak for itself, made the call. Unfortunately, time hadn’t changed anything in her former professor’s eyes. He called the conductor and told him that Keve did not have the chops to play the piece. Since Keve had signed a contract, she couldn’t be fired, but she knew she would have to nail the piece including a large oboe solo. After the first concert in Germany the conductor received a huge bouquet of flowers from the people sponsoring the event. During the bows the conductor took the bouquet and handed it to Keve. Once again, she had proved herself. And, once again, she did not accept someone else’s imposed limitations for herself. She knew she could play it, and she did. Pressure was no match for her passion and joy in the music.

Keve and I sat down for dinner last week and I asked her where she thinks her strong sense of self came from. The first thing that came to mind was her name. This is one of the many things Keve and I have in common. Having a unique, or, in my case uniquely spelled name can begin to shape who you are. It gave us both a sense of being different, apart from the crowd and unique. When you are constantly explaining your name as a kid, it’s no wonder you start to think of yourself as different from everyone else. The second answer she gave me was the influence from her parents. Her parents let her make her own decisions from a very young age. She spent her Saturdays in High School taking the train into New York to study at Manhattan School of Music. She says her parents also made her take responsibility for her actions from the beginning. As I’ve come to get to know her, I believe it was these two things and an undeniable passion for music that fueled the fire for becoming the artist she is today.

I asked Keve what her goals are and what she hopes to accomplish next. Without hesitation, she replies, “An arena tour! I want to be the oboist that goes on tour with Lady Gaga!” I laugh a little at her certainty and because it wasn’t what I expected her to say at all. But a moment later I realize how right she is. This is exactly what she should do next, and from what I can see, Madison Square Garden better get ready.

In addition to playing on A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Keve Wilson performs her one-woman show, From The Band Room To The Orchestra Pit, for Believe NYC music students from around the world.

Arts For Autism 2016 brings students to New York to perform on Broadway and support a great cause.

Gershwin1At Believe NYC, we say that dreams are achievable and our mission is built solidly on the belief that if you love something; art, dance, astronomy, whatever, that you should do it. And you should never give up on it. Recently, I’ve been thinking about the kids who are told You Can’t. Or, the kids with physical or mental challenges that can make doing what they love seem impossible.

A few summers ago, I had the opportunity to work with some students that had been told just that. One student in particular I will never forget. We will call him John. John was going into his junior year in high school and he was OBSESSED with musical theatre. This kid knew more about musical theatre than the entire staff (which included 10 BFA’s, 5 MFA’s, and countless hours of study and experience) John’s favorite show was The Producers. He could quote the whole thing by heart. John was funny, extremely focused, and was one of the hardest working students I’d ever met. John is also on the Autism spectrum. If I asked John to do something differently, he would loudly repeat what I had said several times to make sure he had it right. This would sometimes interrupt rehearsal, and, to be honest, took up allot of my time. But, once given a correction, John never made the same mistake again. He did everything I asked of him, without fail, every time. Just before opening night I was having a conversation with the owner of the theatre and she mentioned that John had not been allowed to audition for his school play. Confused, I asked why? I learned his public school drama teacher told his mother “It just wasn’t the right fit” for John. Wait. WHAT? I couldn’t think of any place where John would “fit in” more than in the theatre! I was disappointed at this teacher’s lack of understanding, courage, imagination, and well, human decency. It was upsetting enough that John was not in his school show, but even more unbelievable that a theatre teacher of all people wouldn’t even let him try. I was so proud of John’s performance that summer. John was the supporting lead and he got a laugh on every line. He sang beautifully. It was a truly wonderful performance. I wish his teacher had come to see just how wrong she was.

Next season, Believe NYC will produce an event to raise money for kids, like John, who are told, You Can’t. 300 children, some with special needs, will have the opportunity to perform in the ultimate venue: on a Broadway Stage. The Gershwin theatre, home of Broadway’s Wicked, will be transformed into a place where You Can’t doesn’t exist. Broadway performers will sing and dance alongside our students in a one night only event to support children with Autism. All proceeds from the evening’s performance will be donated to Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.

If you are in New York next June, we hope you will join us for this inspiring evening of Arts For Autism. These children are going to do what they love. And we believe they can.

For information on performing in the Arts For Autism Concert, visit us at:  http://www.believe-nyc.com/opportunities.html

What is Believe NYC? Artistic Director, Jacque Carnahan talks about how Believe NYC began

“Do what you love”. Steve Jobs has said it, Coco Chanel said it, Confucius said:

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

I love to sing and dance. Performing in the theatre has always been what makes me feel most alive.

I followed my heart from California to New York City and I’ve lived there as a musical theatre performer for the last 12 years. Let me tell you, it can be tough. I’ve worked with some of the best in the business, and I’ve also not worked at all. I’ve lost more jobs than I’ve booked, and the rejection can take its toll. After the show that would have been my Broadway debut lost it’s funding and never saw a Broadway stage, I decided I needed a break from showbiz.

I spent time traveling, teaching, choreographing, and finally found my way back into my dancing shoes when I realized my life as a performer was not over yet. (Yes, at the ripe old age of 29, I decided it wasn’t quite time to retire) All I knew for certain was that I still loved to perform. Do what you love. Ok.

I decided to write a show for young artists about the pursuit of a career in the arts. They say to write what you know, and I knew about that. I called up a composer friend, Barbara Anselmi, and together, we spent 4 months writing my story. From the dance lessons, mean girls, boyfriends, first national tours, losing everything, and then finding it again. We didn’t sugar coat. We wrote it all.

Our first show was at the Triad Theatre in NYC for a group of 75 High School musical theatre students. I invited the owner of a student travel agency, Educational Travel Adventures, to see the show. I wanted to know if he would consider selling the show to his performing arts groups.

Within the first few minutes we got a laugh. Then, another laugh. I peaked at Barbara behind the piano and she smiled. We didn’t know the show was funny! We could feel the audience on the journey with us. After the show, we kept hearing the same sentence, “that was so inspiring”. “You are so inspiring”. “thank you for telling your story” “because I know what you went through to get where you are, I believe I can do it too”. WOW. I asked Michael from ETA what he thought. He loved the show! He said he would start adding it to his performance group itineraries!

4 years later, we have Believe NYC. Since that first performance we have expanded our programing to include workshops, scholarships and an entirely separate program for band and orchestra students featuring world-class musicians and music directors. This season, we began offering programing in Los Angeles and Chicago. Next June, we will produce a benefit concert for Autism Speaks at The Gershwin Theatre where 300 lucky students will get to perform on a Broadway stage with a star-studded cast. And not to mention, Barbara’s own show, It Shoulda Been You, opened on Broadway in April.

I guess retiring from the theatre wasn’t in the cards for me just yet. I’m going to keep doing what I love, and more importantly, I’m going to inspire other young artists to do the same.

Believe NYC is a three part event that includes a show, workshop and Q&A designed to inspire, entertain and educate performing arts students.