Oboe and Piano
BM St. Olaf College
MM University of Michigan
Jelena Dirks is the third generation of professional female musicians in her family. A San Diego native, she grew up listening to her mother, now retired Chicago Symphony Violist Karen Dirks, practicing excerpts. She took up the piano at age 5, which had the added benefit of giving her mother a free accompanist. As a youth she spent her hours dancing and playing the piano, until at age 11, she ceaselessly begged her parents for an oboe when her soon to be first oboe teacher told her “she would make a perfect oboist.”
She remains, to this day, equally proficient on both piano and oboe, much to the public’s confusion, as she is frequently asked if she has a twin sister. She is on the faculty of DePaul University where she teaches both instruments and is the woodwind coordinator. She is highly sought after as both a teacher and performer and has performed with virtually every major musical group in Chicago, including five years of regular performances, tours, and recordings with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She plays chamber music whenever possible as the Oboist for the critically acclaimed Prairie Winds Quintet, and is a frequent guest artist on the CSO Chamber Music Series, and with the Chicago Chamber Musicians.
Having graduated Summa Cum Laude from St. Olaf College in Minnesota, Jelena went on to receive dual Masters Degrees in Piano and Oboe Performance from the University of Michigan. She studied with Alex Klein, Harry Sargous, and David McGill, and Logan Skelton, as well as countless others, before deciding she’d had enough school.
Jelena lives in Chicago with her husband, Aaron, who gave up music for wine and now works as a professional Sommelier, and their dog, Bear. She was appointed to the position of Principal Oboe of the St Louis Symphony Orchestra in December of 2013.