Meet a Musician: Debra Nagy, Baroque Oboist



Bloomington, Indiana, is a special city for musicians—visitor or resident, foreign or domestic, famous or little-known. It also happens to be a city with a large university and a large school of music, a meeting place for all kinds of performers, educators, and researchers. This post is part of a photo series that looks at the many people in Bloomington who call themselves a musician.

Debra Nagy is an instrumentalist who plays multiple early woodwinds (baroque and classical oboes, shawms, Renaissance recorders, and douçaines). And she sings, too.

If maintaining a professional standard on all of those instruments and perpetually traveling around from gig to gig isn’t enough, Debra also runs her own ensemble, Les Délices, which specializes in French Baroque repertoire.

She is busy, in-demand, and a go-getter.

Debra was in Bloomington recently performing with the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra. And since I was spending a few days following the ensemble around, I got to chat with her quite a bit.

We talked mostly about early music stuff, but, in the midst of that, we also recollected about our first meeting, which took place about seven years ago, in the south of England, at an early music workshop everyone knows as “Dartington.”

I was there to take part in the harpsichord masterclass (what else) and, as I was reminded, Debra had come to take lessons from Gail Hennessy, a successful American baroque oboist who was a fixture in the British early music scene (still is).

Of the few times I saw her at the workshop, my clearest memory was of an orchestral rehearsal where Debra was playing a solo and the conductor was being somewhat demanding. She kept cool and responded in a way that took me by surprise: “It’s all good.” I wondered how the conductor, a Brit, translated the oh-so-very-American phrase in his mind. Maybe it didn’t matter because she certainly produced results.

Her easy-going personality has certainly served her well, if not her many talents. Like Gail Hennessy, Debra has become both a success and a fixture in the American early music scene.

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