top of page
Oboe Closeup
Judith Zunamon Lewis: About Us
Judi Lewis.jpeg
Judith Zunamon Lewis: Mission

Judith Zunamon Lewis, Oboe

Acting Assistant Principal Oboe / English Horn

Hometown: Lincolnwood, Illinois

Joined Lyric Orchestra in 2004

Education: Northwestern University — Bachelor of Music and Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology, Tanglewood Music Center

  • With which other orchestras have you performed, either as a member or as a soloist?

Prior to joining the Lyric Opera orchestra, I appeared frequently as soloist, chamber music performer, and orchestral musician in the Chicago area. I have performed with the Chicago, Boston, Honolulu, and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestras, as well as Music of the Baroque, Grant Park and Bach Week Music Festivals, Chicago Chamber Musicians, and the Vermeer Quartet.

  • What performer inspires you most?

Judy Kulb, our principal oboist, is my rock, role model, and dear colleague/friend. She exudes confidence and plays from the heart with great intensity, commitment, and passion, like her predecessor, Gladys Elliot. Judy, like Gladys, demonstrates leadership and professionalism. Her beautiful sound, dazzling technique, and poetic artistry serve to inspire those around her. It is no coincidence that she and Mozart share the same birthday. Lucky for me, her previous position was second oboe, so my music contains all of her markings.

  • What was the scariest thing that ever happened to you in the pit?

During the 2008 production of Porgy and Bess, on Thanksgiving Eve, I decided to make oboe reeds after dinner, late at night. Oboe players are used to razor sharp knives, but I was tired and distracted as I was thinking about Black Friday shopping the next day. The knife slipped out of my hand and when I attempted to grab it, the blade sliced deeply into my right index finger. I refused stitches at the hospital, because I wanted to be able to play the next performance of Porgy. Instead the wound was treated with silver nitrate, which was probably the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced. The next Porgy was the scariest performance ever, because I could not put pressure on the English horn keys. My husband built up the key height with corks and soft foam, but my finger was throbbing in pain and partway through I looked down and saw that I was bleeding all over my instrument. I did not know if I would be able to finish the performance. Needless to say, I ended up taking some time off for my finger to heal properly and we now have a “no knives” after 11pm rule in our house.

  • Do you play any instrument other than the one you play as a Lyric Orchestra member?

At the age of five, I began piano lessons with Jasna Bjankini, and studied with her exclusively through college. Her traditional, old-school Czech background taught me discipline in music and life, how to practice effectively, sight read, and good general work ethic. I credit her with my practice technique today on the oboe. All through high school, I accompanied players for solo competitions and vocal groups.  At the Illinois State Solo and Ensemble Contest, I surprised the judges when I appeared playing the Mozart Oboe Concerto, the Brahms Rhapsody in g minor for piano, and accompanying 15 different soloists. Years later, I even had the thrill to play a small organ part for a performance at the Grant Park Music Festival. Most of all, I will always treasure the time I was accompanying my daughter’s choir in grade school when she was the oboe soloist.

  • My favorite travel destination:

France remains a favorite. Paris holds special significance, as it was my 1986 honeymoon destination and the location of the F. Lorée Company, where my oboe is made. I will always remember visiting Giverny, Monet’s home, and seeing his magnificent panels of water lilies for the first time at the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris. Nancy is the home of art nouveau, which my husband  (horn maker, Steven Lewis) and I are enamored of; we have a modest collection of decorative art from the period. Beaune is known for Burgundy wines and mustard, and I have fond memories of making mustard there with our daughter (Marion) as well as eating the best escargot of my life. In addition, I love Provence, as this is where many of my favorite artists (Cezanne and Van Gogh) created their masterpieces.

Judith Zunamon Lewis: About
bottom of page