Sonja Thoms, author of this website and OrchestraCareers.com, began studying oboe at age 9 in Chicago with Joanne Rehkopf. At age 13, her parents sought out the opportunity for her to study with former Principal Oboe of the Chicago Symphony, Ray Still. Mr. Still agreed to teach her and so Sonja took lessons with him through her sophomore year of high school. The summer before her junior year, Sonja and her family moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, where she studied with Allan Vogel, former Principal Oboe of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
After high school, Sonja attended Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where she studied with Dr. Richard Killmer and was awarded a Bachelors of Music in Oboe Performance in 2003. Sonja continued on to Rice University in Houston, Texas, to study with Robert Atherholt and receive her Masters of Music in Oboe Performance (awarded in 2005).
Even though Sonja spent much of her life studying oboe, she was also very interested in the organization of events and concerts. Throughout college Sonja created opportunities for her and her colleagues to perform concerts of all types, often taking on management of all the details to complete the project. Little did she know these projects were preparing Sonja for a career she didn’t yet know existed: Orchestra Operations.
Sonja graduated from Rice University and decided to try to pursue music education through internships at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. During the application process, the National Symphony Orchestra offered Sonja an internship in Orchestra Operations. She accepted the internship and began learning the foundations of orchestra management.
Following the internship, Sonja started to work part-time as Operations Assistant for the Pittsburgh Symphony in 2006 and stayed for nine years. During that time, Sonja held the positions of Operations Coordinator, Operations Manager and Director of Operations and Touring.
In 2015, Sonja moved to Nashville, Tennessee. Sonja is currently the Senior Director of Operations and Orchestra Manager at the Nashville Symphony. Sonja continually pursues development of her leadership skills through books, podcasts, seminars, networks and workshops. Sonja was chosen to participate in the League of American Orchestras’ 2017-2018 Emerging Leaders Program and in Spring 2019 taught a pilot class she created called “The Business of Orchestras” at Belmont University in Nashville. Sonja also speaks regularly at campuses and schools in the Nashville area, sharing how a professional orchestra works behind the scenes. Contact Sonja if you’d like her to talk to your students in person or via video conference!
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