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THE EDITORS' PRIZE WINNERS Fiction: Anne Miano Poetry: William Greenway Essay: Ron Johnson THE OBOIST/Anne Miano MY APARTMENT sits above a liquor store in a questionable part of town. I delight in telling this because it suggests a degree of daring , a worldliness I cannot claim, as though I keep a Harley out back or red shoes in my closet. I fantasize I will one day be as fascinating as my apartment, but this is unlikely. I am an oboist from Bayonne, the driver of a gray sedan, a fanatical consumer of Rubbermaid products who stutters when I speak. Though I did not, as many assume, take up music to compensate for my affliction. Instead, it was my mother and her unfaltering determination to produce a great violinist that brought me to this profession. Much like my uncle Maury who met an angel at the bus stop and gave his son to the church, my mother had been called (by a New Yorker article, I think, on the rise of Japanese virtuosos and the Suzuki Method) to buy me a violin, hire an instructor, and stand over my shoulder shouting, "You missed that note again," for two hours each afternoon as I practiced. As a result ofher enthusiasm, I developed quickly into a remarkable violinist and, when I graduated from high school, received a scholarship to Julliard. I also acquired an uncontrollable tremor in my right hand that appeared whenever I played alone on stage. And my speech impediment, which began as a tendency to mumble in groups, grew into a full-blown stutter. My violin instructor suggested speech lessons, but my mother insisted on teaching me at home. "A stutter is a sign of laziness," she said and assigned me long passages from Hamlet which she demanded that I recite at dinner. "To be or not to be,'" I chanted, stumbling through the crowded f's, and my mother would interrupt. "Wha wha what did you say?" I would raise my voice and begin again. "To be or not to be.'" "Wha wha what did you say?" "To be or not to be!'" The exchange would continue, back and forth, volume rising, tears pouring down my face. Occasionally, I would glance at my father who sat silently at the table, reading the newspaper section by section. My father was like a seagull sitting on the ocean, calm and unbothered by the churnings of the waves. He moved deliberately through each section , sports page, front page, local and comics. Despite my mother's efforts, the stutter persisted, as did the tremor, which soon showed itself to be malignant, creeping down my arm and The Missouri Review · 93 stretching out to embrace my entire right side. My teachers at Julliard were confounded and tried a variety of therapies, including forcing me to play alone on crowded street corners. They finally gave up when I passed out while playing on the steps at Lincoln Center, tumbled down to Broadway, and had to be rushed to the hospital. It was Dr. Schwartzman, my freshman advisor, who proposed a solution. "Julia," he said to me, "You can either go on as you are and die young from apoplexy. Or you can become an oboist and live a long, productive life, surrounded by a hundred other musicians." "You want to do what?" my mother shrieked when I called her with my plan. "Absolutely not. What are you thinking? Do you hear an oboe on RCA? Do you see an oboe at Carnegie Hall? People do not buy tickets to hear an oboe." I blissfully knew this to be true, that it was virtually impossible to have a solo career as a concert oboist. I hung up the phone and returned to Dr. Schwartzman's office. "I want to be an oboist," I announced. Then I sold my violin, and the tremor disappeared . That is how I was saved by my oboe. I truly believe this. I would not be alive today without it. Every time I bring it to my lips, I remember the years of unconscious terror and how like a miracle—my oboe is a miracle—all the tics and twitches that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 91-108
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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