Festival Friday Radio is a new weekly blog series in which we share playlists for your listening pleasure. While you wait for the 2017 Festival to begin, tune in every Friday to hear these hand-selected lists that include top 10 songs by 2017 Spoleto Festival USA musicians, or an exclusive artist-curated playlist. 

Oboist James Austin Smith has been a major player in the Bank of America Chamber Music series since 2011. His diverse virtuosity allows him to play in a wide range of programs that span multiple styles and ages. The New York Times has called his stage presence “brilliant” and “dazzling” so you won’t want to miss his performances! We spoke with James to discover what he listens to when he finds a moment to breathe somewhere between practicing and performing. In keeping with his style of oboe playing, James’s top 7 songs are an equal blend of old and new music.

Tune in below and read on for a personal note from James to Festival Friday Radio listeners in which he expands on certain selections.

“There are few things I enjoy more than “Morning Becomes Eclectic” on LA’s KCRW—even with the absence of classical music on that morning show, it’s had a huge influence on how I listen to music and how I hear the relationships between different pieces/songs, regardless of genre.

Tom Misch’s beautiful track “Memory” was introduced to me by “Morning Becomes Electric”; “Tuyo” by Rodrigo Amarante is another favorite on that show, but I fell in love with it watching “Narcos”—it’s an exquisite song that says everything it needs to say in half the length of most others. I never get tired of “Kick, Push” from Lupe Fiasco, nor from a lot of his other music.

Jazz is the music I listen to most, and Tommy Flanagan’s rendition of “You Go to My Head” captures the wistful, nostalgic, sorrowful essence of that classic. Brad Mehldau is a musical hero of mine—the opening line of “Cry Me a River” is a masterclass in song and line for this musician or any other instrumentalist or singer—and he does it on a percussion instrument. The Ravel String Quartet was one of my first great classical music loves, and the Rachmaninoff that starts the set, by two of my favorite pianists and people in the world, is the kind of beauty we need more in our lives, everyday.

Thanks for listening—can’t wait to see you all in Charleston later this month!”

See James Austin Smith perform in any of the Bank of America Chamber Music Series programs below:

Program I—CLICK HERE for information and tickets
Program II—CLICK HERE for information and tickets
Program III—CLICK HERE for information and tickets
Program IV—CLICK HERE for information and tickets
Program VI—CLICK HERE for information and tickets

Photo courtesy of James Austin Smith