Meet the Musician: Marilyn Schram
Finding Blessings And Beauty Through Life’s Journey
“I was a latch-key kid,” recalls California Philharmonic oboist and English horn player Marilyn Schram as she recounts how she happened into music. During her early childhood in Chicago she rode along with her best friend to Temple, Saturday School, and choir. “I was kind of stuck,” and so she too started singing in the chorus. In 4th grade the same best friend started playing oboe, so Marilyn began on flute, which is not an uncommon first instrument for oboists. Marilyn’s father had a life-long career in law enforcement, including military police, ultimately moving up to chief of police, while her mother worked in network engineering and computer technology. When Marilyn was in 7th grade the family moved out to Culver City where, as a middle schooler, she had the opportunity to play piccolo in the Culver High School marching band. When the family settled in Glendale, still being in junior high school, she found she needed more of a musical challenge.
Her band teacher told her there was an oboe in the closet and, being familiar with the instrument through her friend, she picked it up. Word got around fast, oboe being a more in-demand woodwind, and before she could even play the instrument, youth orchestras around town asked her to join. “It took on a life of its own.” In high school, her teacher asked her if she was considering going pro. “I didn’t even know this could be a profession. For a lack of a better answer I said ‘Oh, OK.’” So back to Chicago and off to Northwestern she went. After a couple years she returned to SoCal to study under the eminent Allan Vogel and earn her Bachelor of Music (cum laude) from Cal State University, Northridge and then a Master of Fine Arts in Music from the University of California, Irvine. During her school years she enjoyed the invaluable opportunity unique to young musicians: touring Europe and Asia with orchestras and youth ensembles.
After her studies, Ms. Schram ventured out into the freelance world of L.A. when she landed the position of English hornist of the Tucson Symphony. After a couple years in Arizona, she once again returned to the orchestras of Southern California and started teaching private lessons to a considerable number of oboe students. Marilyn Schram is the principal oboist of the San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra, English hornist with the Redlands Symphony, and has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Pacific Symphony, the Opera Pacific, and the Brentwood Symphony. Performing in concerts overseas, Ms. Schram was honored to join musicians from countries across the globe to play under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas in Hiroshima, Japan, for the 50th year commemoration of the bombing.
Not only does Marilyn play oboe and English horn but the less frequently heard Oboe-D’Amore, “the oboe of love.” All three instruments are part of the oboe family, the oboe being considered the soprano of the family, the English horn the tenor, and the Oboe D’Amore the alto. Marilyn first played with the California Philharmonic back during the Ambassador Auditorium days and after a gap in time returned, stunning the crowd with her breathtaking English horn solo on Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” this last season.
But music isn’t her only field of expertise. Awhile back, Marilyn’s sister was diagnosed with brain cancer which, among other harrowing complications, affected her speech. This circumstance motivated Marilyn to study speech pathology. She found a familiarity in the structure of speech and how to break down and sequence sounds and she earned a Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology from Cal State University, Los Angeles. In 2013, she established Crystal Speech and Voice, a private practice providing voice rehabilitation and care to singers and others using their voice occupationally, accent reduction to professionals who speak English as a second language, and neurologic rehabilitation using an innovative life-participation approach.
After finding purpose through adversity, Ms. Schram was derailed once again, this time discovering she herself had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. And though it was a terrible ordeal she was able to find a silver lining and say “so many wonderful blessings came into my life through that journey.” In between chemo treatments Marilyn regularly took off to Europe, travelling wherever the wind blew her, reconnecting with distant family, meeting third cousins in England who are professional musicians, and enjoying life in a way she might never have done without her illness. “It is so liberating to travel around without a plan.”
Fortunately, today Marilyn is healthy and thriving, continuing to teach, enjoying her hobbies of swimming, mountain-biking, and knitting and inspiring others through the beauty of music and her heart-stirring playing with the California Philharmonic.