San Francisco based oboist, educator,
Part I - Where no Oboist has Gone Before...
Summer, 2003. For our family vacation, we decided to drive nine hours from San Francisco, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada and attend the Creation Entertainment Star Trek Convention. We’ve been watching Star Trek forever, it’s a source for family bonding, and we knew it would be fun! I logged onto creationent.com and discovered a notice about the first annual Star Trek Idol Talent Search, taking place during the convention. I took a chance. I got hold of the music to all five TV show themes, practiced until I had memorized tiny sound bites from each, noodled around until I had them strung together in a recognizable one minute medley. The deadline for submission was July 1, and at 3:15 PM on June 30, I leaned up against the wall of my studio, dressed (because I know you are wondering if I wore a costume) in my normal street attire of leopard print clothing, and videotaped myself playing the oboe. My daughter ran to the post office for me, and in the nick of time, mailed it off via express mail.
“Hello”. It was about 2:00, in the afternoon, just two weeks before the convention. “Hi Brenda, this is Tina from Creation Entertainment. I’m calling to tell you that you have made the finals of the Star Trek Idol Talent Search”.
I screamed. Then “uh, uh, uh.” I could hardly speak, I was so excited. It wasn’t the possibility of the $1000.00 gift certificate prize. I have had an intriguing career devoted to bringing the oboe to audiences that don’t usually have the opportunity to hear it either at all, or in a soloistic context. Here would be a chance to bring this gorgeous sound to thousands.
“Uh, how many finalists are there?"
"What's my Competition"
"Mostly Singers. Some Comedy. Other Stuff."
"Is everyone good?"
My mind was racing. Maybe I should play a Telemann Fantasy.
“Should I keep the theme to Star Trek?”
“I think so. That would be a good idea”.
I notified the double reed world via the International Double Reed Society and Double Reed online lists. I received dozens of e mails – public and private, wishing me well, sending encouragement, expressing love of Star Trek and nurturing support for my daring. It was great to share this unusual double reed/Star Trek bond.
Thus began two weeks of obsessive mental composing and intensive practicing. I created a new musical composition/arrangement by mentally improvising and mentally practicing while I drove, while I ate, while I slept. I was urgently putting together the various themes, chronologically and creatively. I thought about the shows, what they expressed, what were their differences and similarities, and all the while my wonderful son, Elijah, 9 years old at the time, would pop into my studio to inform me that I was playing a wrong note, an incorrect rhythm, a misunderstanding of that particular melody. I hung on his every word, followed his instructions, and came up with a five minute Fantasy on Themes from Star Trek. I decided to dedicate it to the android character Data, who played the oboe in a Next Generation episode entitled In Theory, and who had died in the latest movie Nemesis.
It was time to pack up my family and leave. I was freaking out. I’d practiced for so many hours but still there were entire sections of my own composition that were not trek-nically perfect! I needed more time. I was frantic.
“Brenda, put down the phaser - you are going to win”. It was a message on my answering machine from oboist/friend Bennie Cottone. During the long (still mentally practicing) drive to Las Vegas, and during the several convention days prior to the contest, those words became my mantra.
On the morning of the contest, I was informed that there would be no rehearsal time and no sound check. Internally, I screamed, “AAARGHH!” then remembered, “Brenda, put down the phaser.” I calmly explained about reeds in relation to unfamiliar environments, and Tina gave me special dispensation and kindly arranged for me to have 5 minutes to adjust my reeds on stage. That’s when I met the sound technician. Dr. Benn – a former oboist.
There were maybe two hundred people in the audience for the contest. The competition was fierce – an hilarious and uplifting Klingon with all the moves and props attached to his attire, singing Tom Lehrer’s “Masochism Tango”, a Beverly Crusher look-alike coloratura soprano singing “Queen Of The Night” from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”, a Scotsman in full kilt, singing a perfect imitation of Louis Armstrong, an incredible soprano singing “I will always love you”, several other extraordinary singers/entertainers and a seven year old boy who had composed his own song. Everyone was wonderful and memorable.
The judges were Larry Nemecek, editor of Star Trek Communicator Magazine, J. Kelly Burke, co-author with Larry of the Voyager episode Prophecy, J. G. Hertzler and Robert O’Reilly, actors who played Martok and Gowron. Imitating American Idol, they offered hilarious comments to each of us.
While all of the contestants sat backstage, the judges compared notes and deliberated out front. My family reported afterwards that from the audience there arose a steady chant: “oboe, oboe, oboe”.
I won. What a feeling of exhilaration! Onstage after the announcement, the judges asked intelligent questions. I don’t remember much of my interview, except for the comment by Janice Kelly Burke who said, “I must tell you that when I heard there would be an oboist, I cringed”.
The Las Vegas Hilton, site of the event, hosts The Star Trek Experience which includes a “promenade” in imitation of the set of Deep Space Nine. That night, we went to Quark’s Bar. I was famous. Klingons pounded their beer mugs on the tables as I entered, and Star Trek actors and convention attendees radiated appreciation and love.
My career as a visible, innovative oboist has developed largely because of my own determination and perseverance. Being different, as we know from Star Trek, can lead to the attraction of negative energy, but determination and perseverance can ultimately lead to profound positive influence. In Adam and Gary, owners of Creation Entertainment, I found understanding and support. I persuaded them to allow me to perform at the Pasadena Science Fiction Convention in March, 2004. They generously provided me with free admission to the convention and a free table to sell my Oboe Of The World CD in the merchant’s room. I would perform as the closing act for Leonard Nimoy, (Spock) and my dream come true! as the opening act for Brent Spiner (Data).
As time approached for my performance, I had to change clothes in the public ladies room, and I asked advice of the woman standing next to me at the sink. I told her what I was about to do and asked “Which shoes should I wear?” “The gold ones”. We talked a bit and she told me that her husband is Malachi Throne, who played Commodore Mendez in the original series, and Pardak in Next Generation. She invited me to come visit them in the autograph room.
There were 3000 people in the audience. Dr. Benn had, once again, set the microphones perfectly. I played the five minute Fantasy, and with applause still ringing, I walked down the steps into the makeshift, very dark, backstage. Brent Spiner walked over to me and said in an exuberant tone, “what’s that?” “The oboe” I answered. “I love the oboe” he responded, “are you going to play”? “I just did! I composed a piece to honor Data, and I won the Star Trek Idol Talent Search last summer. That’s why I’m here.” “I’d like to hear it” he called back to me as he was hurried onto the stage.
Two very attractive young teenage boys approached. I knew they had to be actors, in order to even be backstage. One held out his hand, to shake mine. The look on his face was one of awe, and in a trembling voice he said “wow, I just want you to know, that was great!”
I could hardly see in the dark, but I thought I recognized this kid. But from where? The other young man began to speak. I recognized the voice and British accent before I clearly saw is face. “Oh, I know you” I said, and leaped to my feet. “You’re Neville Longbottom!” (from Harry Potter, actor Matthew Lewis). “I just want you to know,” he said, “ when you played that theme from Voyager, that was, that was awesome”.
“Thank you, thank you”, I said, “I’ll come over to your table and visit you guys later”. They took off, and I realized that the first young man, was Daniel Logan, Baba Fett from Star Wars, episode 2.
I finished packing up. Brent Spiner was still onstage, now answering questions from individuals lined up alongside the stage. My website designer, oboist/friend Brian Moses had asked me to inquire of Brent, what training if any, he’d undergone in order to so skillfully imitate an oboist, in the episode 'In Theory'. So now I stood last on line, and just as Brent turned to me so that I could ask my question, he was informed that time was up, he had to depart the stage immediately. Nevertheless, Brent graciously turned to me, and quite hurriedly, I simply thanked him on behalf of the oboe playing community, for doing such a good job of pretending that he played the oboe. “I do play the oboe” he responded, and left the stage.
All those years of practicing oboe embouchure must have finally paid off, because my jaw could not have dropped any lower. I was dumbfounded. Brent Spiner plays the oboe? My oboe was still backstage, I’d arranged to return, and the guards knew me, so I ran backstage, stood real close to Brent and inquired: “You really play the oboe?.” No”, he said, “I was just kidding”. I hugged him, and he was rushed out to begin signing autographs.
I deposited my oboe in a secure location and went off to find the young actors. They were signing autographs. Devon Murray, (Seamus Finnegan from Harry Potter) was also there. They were posing for photographs, having their pictures taken by blissful fans. These are just wonderful, young teenage boys, rather awed at the attention, at this convention with their parents. I asked Matthew’s (Neville’s) dad if he’d take my picture with these delightful young men.
Being a celebrity myself was energizing and exhilarating. What a trip! I headed over to talk to Mrs. Throne. She and Malachi were in the autograph room. They had come to hear me play and we had a delightful conversation. Malachi is a thoughtful, kind person, and I asked him what its like for him, getting employment. Having had so long and successful a career, does he get lots of offers, lots of opportunities, or does he have to look for work? He quoted a friend of his: “The job is looking for work. The vacation is when you get it”.
With my gift certificate “prize” I had arranged to have my photo taken with Brent Spiner and now was the time to head over to the photo booth. Bennie Cottone had made a brilliant suggestion: “Bring two oboes!” So I stood on line with two oboes in hand, and my oboe backpack on my back, and engaged in conversation with Star Trek fans who indeed knew what the oboe is, and asked really good questions about reeds and more. When my turn came I said to Brent, Will you? I held up one oboe. “Sure why not”, was the answer.
I must explain that there are thousands of people at these conventions, paying substantial amount of money to have their pictures taken with the stars. Each photo shoot takes exactly 20 seconds, so there was not much time to look over at Brent to see what pose he had adopted. Besides, I was Star struck. It never occurred to me that he was unfamiliar with holding an oboe and was expressing kindness and generosity in agreeing to this photo. Later, much later, at a different convention, Brent explained to me that he had no memory of ever playing the oboe in any episode. “Did I play the oboe?” he had asked. ”You didn’t”, I’d answered, “Data did.”
In Pasadena, I was staying with bassoonist John Steinmentz and family. His wife, Kazi is the violist who performed, on viola, the misnamed violin solo that was so gorgeous it made Vulcan Spock’s father Sarek, cry. Kazi had just invested in a substantial number of baby chickens with the intention of raising them for the eggs. Born and raised in New York City, living in San Francisco, I have had no experience with baby chicks, so spending time in that delightful and wondrous environment was the perfect ending to this Pasadena Sci-Fi Grand Slam and I left LA in quite the happy state.
I used the rest of my $1000 gift certificate to purchase tickets for the August, 2004 Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas. I figured I’d show up at the 2nd annual talent contest and pass the crown to the next winner. But, huh? There was no contest scheduled. The annual Star Trek Idol Talent Search was not to be and I retain the crown!
“Hello, Brenda? This is Sky Conway. I run Planet XPO. We’re having a convention in Hollywood to honor Jimmy Doohan. It’s called “Beam Me Up, Scotty”. I hear you’re a terrific oboist. Would you like to come to Hollywood and play at the convention?”
Part II - Playing Among The Stars
I had won Creation Entertainment’s Star Trek Idol Talent Search in August, 2003, and had performed my “Fantasy on Themes From Star Trek” for solo oboe and some spontaneous improvisations at Creation’s Science Fiction Grand Slam in March, 2004 and again at Creation’s Star Trek Convention in June. I was surprised and delighted when in July, 2004, I received a call from Sky Conway, head of an entirely different company - Planet XPO - inviting me to perform at the “Beam Me Up, Scotty” event in Hollywood scheduled for August 28 through 30. Its purpose was to honor Jimmy Doohan, who’d played Scotty in the original series. I’d perform for about 15 minutes per day and in exchange they’d give me and my son, Elijah, the highest price tickets to the event and hotel accommodations.
The tickets entitled us to live encounters with, and autographs of, the Stars of the original series. The performances would offer me the opportunity to meet, mingle with, entertain, and share the gorgeous sound of the oboe with celebrities and their families and Star Trek fans of all ages.
So there I am in front of an audience of 600, all seated at round banquet tables, in a huge hall. My position onstage is rather high up, and as I look outward into the audience I see faces of people I have only previously seen on television. Jimmy Doohan (Scotty), Astronaut Neil Armstrong, Garrett Wang, (Ensign Kim), Will Wheaton, (Wesley Crusher), J.G. Hertzler, (Martok), Robert O'Reilly, (Gawron), Chase Masterson (Leeta), Grace Lee Whitney (Yeoman Rand), and a lot of the original series guest actors including Barbara Luna and Celeste Yarnell.
I begin to play my composition: “Fantasy on Themes from Star Trek”. Many feet below me, in the area between me and the audience, is my 10 year old son, dressed in his Next Generation uniform, camera ready - my official photographer.
He’d been studying the Japanese martial art aikido. In his mind, to crouch down and take a photo, then to stand up, walk to another location for another shot, was too intrusive. So in the tradition of the true rock and roll photographer, he’d snap a picture, aikido roll (like a summersault) to another location, snap a picture, summersault, snap again. Moving quickly he was rolling all over the place, forward and back, side to side, back and forth between me and the audience, repeatedly covering about 10 - 20 feet in a matter of seconds.
It struck me as the most glorious and hilarious situation an oboe player could be in. I’m alone onstage, performing for and looking right into the eyes of the world’s most prestigious scientists, TV and movie stars, and in particular my eyes keep falling on the awesome Nichelle Nichols (Uhura). I’m watching my son skillfully roll and snap, roll and snap. I’m playing to an educated, wonderfully enthusiastic, and mostly attentive audience. Suddenly, I have no idea where I am in my piece, I can’t remember what comes next, and despite my initial understandable reaction of terror, I’m having a most delightful experience! I just kept playing, making stuff up until I stopped internally laughing and found my way back to continue and complete my own memorized composition.
Off the stage, I hug my son, and arm in arm we walk to our table. There are news and movie crews and cameras everywhere, outside and in. “Mom, I’m gonna go find a camera crew and be on the news”. Elijah starts to leave the building. “Elijah” I say, “you can’t just walk up to the cameraman and be on the news”. “Watch me” he says and he walks out the door and disappears. I’m alarmed. Where’s he going? I quickly pack up my oboe, sling my pack on my back, walk outside expecting to be frantically searching for my son, and there he is, microphone already strung through his clothes and attached to his shirt. He’s being interviewed for the documentary “Trek Nation” produced by Eugene (Rod) Roddenberry, son of Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry. I’m asked to sign a release, which I do, and Eugene is so impressed with Elijah that they arrange to interview him again the next day, and they do – for an hour. What are the chances he’ll be in the movie? They’ve interviewed hundreds of people about the positive, nurturing, enriching impact of Star Trek on their lives. We won’t be notified. If he’s in the movie we’ll know only by seeing it. Later that afternoon, we met Eugene by chance. “Hey buddy”, he said, “you’re in”, and he gave Elijah his autograph.
As Nichelle Nichols passed by She said “You’re oboe was wonderful” and Grace Lee Whitney said “You’re the oboist! - Breathtaking!”
Elijah walked up to Neil Armstrong and said “My Mom told me to shake your hand". The first person to walk on the moon complied.
A few days following the event, an International Double Reed Society online member, (I am so sorry; I don’t remember your name. Could you e mail me to remind me?) wrote a note to the IDRS list online, informing everyone that Wil Wheaton had mentioned my performance on his website. He’d said “a woman got up to play an incredibly beautiful Star Trek Suite on the oboe”. I took a chance and wrote to thank him. To my astonishment I got a response: “You know. I’ve done so many Star Trek things. It’s rare that I see or hear something new and different…and that the new thing is really amazing. You managed to accomplish both at once. My best to you and yours.” Wow.
I want to tell you all about some of these extraordinary people who were/are Star Trek actors. Many (not all) of those I have met are people of the highest possible integrity, absolutely committed to exerting positive, nurturing, helpful influence on everyone with whom they come in contact. They are politically, socially, and environmentally involved and active. They fully understand the power they hold, to influence change for the better, and they act in accord with that understanding. They are honest, straightforward, human hearted, charitable, some are hilariously funny. The extent of their kindness and commitment surely impacts all humanity for the better. I have met several of them many times since. My life is so enriched by contact with them I cannot even begin to communicate the depth of their impact on both myself and my son.
“Good morning. Planet XPO. Great Bird of the Galaxy Productions.”
“Hello, Sky. This is Brenda Schuman-Post. I’m just calling to remind you that I still want to be in your Star Trek fan film.”
“Yes, I remember. Maybe we could use you for the wedding scene that takes place on Vulcan. But Brenda, do Vulcans play the oboe?”
Part lll: Do Vulcans Play the Oboe?
October 3, 2006
I have just returned from the planet Vulcan where I was privileged to be filmed playing the oboe for the soon to be released online Star Trek fan film "Of Gods and Men."
Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) was there. He was among the many humans and Vulcans who seemed entranced and intrigued.
The Vulcans immediately recognized the high spiritual and intellectual value and significance of the oboe and decided it would be the only earth instrument to adopt and to incorporate into Vulcan culture.
They invited me to stay and teach! Tuvok (Tim Russ) was especially determined to learn.
With so many Vulcans now learning to play the oboe, you can be assured that there is indeed, hope for the future!
“Star Trek: Of Gods and Men” was filmed in Los Angeles, CA. in late September 2006. It can be downloaded for no charge at www.startrekofgodsandmen.com. Brenda plays the role of an oboist musician and is visible and audible for a few seconds, at the very end of Act Three, as an oboist (playing Telemann) at the wedding on Vulcan.
Rod Roddenberry's "Trek Nation" premiered on The Science Channel in 2012. Elijah Post is the little boy who says "Star Trek helps me".
Regarding Part 3: Do Vulcan's Play the Oboe?
Brenda wishes to thank the many actors and extras who agreed to participate in the staging of this delightful photo fantasy.
"Fantasy on Themes from Star Trek" was composed via improvisation in 2003. These are two similar but different versions of the same composition. The upper video has cool photos and was a live performance, the other is a studio recording and has higher quality sound.
These are some of the voyages of the oboist, Brenda Schuman-Post. Her lifelong mission to bring the gorgeous sound of the oboe to every being in the universe. To educate oboists and audiences alike about the instrument’s potential. To liberate all beings through sound and kindness. To perform in every conceivable venue. To boldly go where no oboist has gone before……
Brenda Schuman-Post is a San Francisco based free lancer, oboe educator and improvising composer who also presents concerts, master classes and lecture-performances worldwide. In 2008, she was awarded a Global Connections grant from Meet the Composer and became the only musician ever to play for the conservation communities associated with The African Blackwood (grenadilla) Conservation Project and The Mpingo (grenadilla) Conservation Project in Tanzania. She is director of her multi-instrumental ensemble Sonic Forest and runs Sonic Forest Productions, a music based entertainment and education resource with special emphasis on performances for audiences in under-served communities and in particular for senior citizens.