The Sky is the Limit for Lindsay McIntosh: How a Principal Oboist is Creating a World-Class "Art Town" in the Sierra Nevadas
Lindsay McIntosh is a historical oboist who had a bustling routine in New York City where she completed her graduate studies at the Juilliard School of Music in the Historical Performance Program. Lindsay had developed a vision of bringing the robust world of the arts she was exposed to in New York back to her community in the Sierra Nevadas of California. That is where Musica Sierra was born.
Lindsay sat down with us to discuss her background in music, her inspiration for Musica Sierra, and what she looks forward to about partnering with Mindful Music.
The Well (TW): Have you always wanted to be a musician and work in this industry? Who were some of your inspirations when starting?
Lindsay McIntosh (LM): I started playing the clarinet in band, like anyone else does in sixth grade and I quickly got kind of under my fingers with it and I went back the next year and I wanted to play the oboe. I went to the big chart on the wall that every band room has and it’s a big chart of every instrument in the orchestra and I kinda picked the oboe. Originally I asked my band director which instrument was going to make me the most money, which is a hilarious questions for a seventh grader and he said you can be the conductor, the principal oboe player, or the principal horn player. Since we didn't have a string program at the time, I said “Oh what's the oboe?” since I wasn't really into brass at that point either.
So from a very young age I picked up oboe very quickly. The oboe is either one of those instruments where you either have it or you don’t because of all the back pressure and the double reed that you have to blow. I quickly moved up the ranks and was a principal player in the youth orchestra and honor bands in Northern California so basically knew from seventh grade on that I wanted to be an orchestral oboe player, and I wanted to be the next principal oboist of the San Francisco Symphony. That was my dream.
I went off to college and completed my Master's Degree, and everyone was so supportive and so wonderful I loved everything about it. I was always on track to become a performance player and it wasn’t until much later when I was at Juilliard that I started thinking abut starting my own group and becoming an Artistic Director. The whole programming and administrative side of music and art was something that I didn’t find until I got to Juilliard and got to see it first hand and the administration and a lot of the career options that they were offering were bringing in people to start record labels and agencies and it just opened up my eyes.
TW: What was your inspiration for starting Music Sierra?
LM: My inspiration has always been to bring back my experiences and education back to my hometown. I just wanted to give back to my community and make it a better place for my children, and looking at the school district there was no music programming in the school. I was crafting my idea of what i would want for my kids and what I would want growing up, so after school classes, classes in school, learning about different types of music from all around the world, and just exposure to learning something different.
Exposure at that age is so important, and I saw this beautiful county was lacking so much in arts and culture so I was able to just build my vision from that. Thankfully, I know a lot of amazing industry performers and educators from New York and Juilliard, so I was able to get a lot of help and guidance on starting my own performing arts center.
TW: How does it differ between being a musician non-profit leader in rural California than your previous experience in New York City?
LM: They couldn’t be more completely opposite. In New York, it’s very saturated and if you’re not “the next best thing” it’s very hard to find a niche and to end up making the cut. I was so fortunate right out of Juilliard to be hired at a brand-new, cutting edge theatre called National Sawdust and the woman who started it, her name was Paola Prestini and she was incredible. She was a leader in all of arts and music. She was a composer, and a Juilliard grad.
She was launching a brand new venue space, which was a safe space for musicians in between their ten-year life long goal. It was focused on people making art and new music and it was a safe haven to create and see different art created by people from all walks of life. It wasn’t your typical orchestra or opera. It was a home for people. When I was hired there, it just opened my eyes to all different kinds of music and it gave me the vision to one day want to maybe start a place of my own like this back home. It was aways my dream to bring everything back to my hometown which is Truckee, CA. Truckee is a part of Lake Tahoe, and now my home is Loyalton, Caliornia which is part of the Sierra Valley and there is a huge lacking for arts in this tiny community. So, all the work I did in New York was just about gaining exposure, and everyday at this venue we had different artists walking through the door and everyday was different.
I just started thinking if I had my venue what would I want to do and what would I want to offer. But they are completely different.
Here in California, the sky is the limit. It’s my vision and the community, the parents, the foundations, the schools, and my family have been so supportive and they really helped guide me to make this happen. Now, my dream is to make our music performing arts organization a staple of the community. It’s my dream to make this a “hub” for cultural experience and a beacon of art and music in the Sierra Valley. In California, we call it an “art town,” and I hope that one day people will come from all over the world to see our performances and will want to bring their kids over here for school.
TW: How has Music Sierra grown since you first started this journey?
LM: It has grown three-fold. I am so thanksful again for all of my supporters letting me carry out my vision, and my husband Owen McIntosh who is also a professional musician, singer, opera singer, educator and is now the music teacher Truckee Elementary. He is now my guiding star for inspiration and helps me talk through our vision late at night when our babies are sleeping and just making sure we are doing as much as we can for our community and the kids here. The Musica Sierra journey is still starting and we are still finding our footing with being sustainable, and finding funding and revenue streams like any other nonprofit organiation and making sure we have the infrastructure be around for a very long time. We find that people love it and the schools just aren't necessartily prepped for having a music department or program so we are building toward that and finding the space to do all of this.
TW: What are you looking forward to the most about collaborating with Mindful Music Moments and working to bring world-class music to schools and communities?
LM: I am over the moon about meeting Stacy and Rowe and hearing about everyone's vision. You all are just leaders in this world of social and emotional learning and there's not a lot out there with just the connection between music and your well-being and your mind. There are studies coming out and people writing dissertations on the brain and how music helps with math and language, and there's always just kind of an undercurrent of that always happening and people know that, but really it's not as much as heavily researched and put up there next to other academic topics, yet music is so important and I am just so excited to learn from Stacy and pick her brain about it to see how I can help support the families in my community and myself with this type of music programming.
I can't wait for the students to do it and have heard a lot of parents talk about how excited they are and they think it also could be a great part of a bedtime routine. I am thrilled to have found her and I honestly Googled The Well on a whim, and my husband does something similar in his elementary class where he picks the music and runs it, but right now I am the only person on staff at my company so I don't have the time to pick the music and prompts so I Googled it and Mindful Music came up so I so thbakful that it's een out here and you all are doing the work. I love how professional this whole process has been so far, and I love the imagery, and the printed materials you provide, and the fun facts and prompts that are included. It's perfect so I am just really excited to be including this in my program.
TW: What is your favorite type of music? What are you currently enjoying and feeling inspired by?
LM: We listen to all types of music, from Harry Styles to Michael Buble to Mozart to Bach to Spanish music to Flamenco music. We listen to it all. Currently, my all-time favorite music has to be from the Baroque era. George Frideric Handel has to be my favorite composer of all time. He writes the most gorgeous operas for a soprano. Actually, they were written for Castrati which is a whole other conversation about these men that sang like angels, so that is my favorite of all time. At any given minute I will throw on a Handel opera and just listen to it. Same with Bach, if I am feeling like I can't figure out what I want to listen to I'll just throw on some "Mass in B Minor" or "Brockes Passion" or any of "The Well-Tempered Clavier" because Bach is just incredibly moving and I don't need to be actively listening to it I can just have it on in the background.
Currently, I am inspired by a handful of my colleagues that are coming out to Musica Sierra. Edwin Huizinga who is coming out very soon to do something called "Spirit of Spain" where he has a Flamenco dancer with him and is doing a lot of Spanish-inspired Baroque and Folk music. He crafted a program with his duo called "Fire and Grace," featuring guitarist William Coulter and Fanny Ara who is this insanely beautiful Flamenco dancer based out of Oakland. They are so inspiring and it's just so beautiful.
To read more about Musica Sierra, their upcoming events, and how you can assist in uplifting this arts community, head to their website here and scroll through the images above