MTD hosts pioneer female musician as guest artist


GVL / Annabelle Robinson

Haley Rosendale, Staff Writer

The Grand Valley State University Music, Theatre & Dance department hosted Dr. Frances Colón as a guest artist in the music program on Thursday, March 23, and Friday, March 24. Colón worked with up-and-coming artists on their techniques, solos and musical repertoires. 

Colón was born and raised in Puerto Rico, San Juan.

“I am the first person from Puerto Rico to obtain a doctorate degree in oboe performance,” Colón said. “I am also the first person to win the principal oboe position with the Puerto Rico symphony orchestra. Prior to me winning that position, for 50 years, all of the oboists were from the mainland– the United States.” 

This was not Colón’s first time as a guest artist at GVSU, thanks to GVSU Oboe Professor Marlen Vavrikova. 

“I’ve been to (GVSU) probably about 10 years ago, and it was a great opportunity,” Colón said. “(Vavrikova’s) studio and her students are fabulous and she’s a phenomenal teacher. When (Vavrikova) asked me if I would consider going again, the experience 10 years ago was so positive that I thought, ‘Of course I will.’” 

Dr. Frances Colón is the director of the Oboe Mobile Foundation, a nonprofit corporation that uses the oboe to serve the community with love through education.

She directed her time at GVSU working with music department students, specifically the oboe performers, as well as addressing all fine arts students in a presentation.

“I’m going to use the Oboe Mobile Foundation as groundwork to share with others what you need to learn, what skills you need to have and what you need to learn to turn your ideas into a project,” Colón said. 

Natalie Feldpausch is a third-year oboe performance major at Grand Valley State University. She is the principal oboe in the wind symphony and has played the oboe for 10 years. On Friday, she worked with Dr. Frances Colón.

“It was wonderful, Dr. Colón is a fantastic person and musician,” Feldpausch said. “She was very kind to everyone and gave us all helpful life and professional advice.”

Spending two days at Grand Valley State University, Colón was able to make an impact on the students she worked with. With all Colón’s life and musical experience, she shared advice that was worth the listen for Feldpausch. 

“The main advice Dr. Colón gave us was that every problem can be viewed as an opportunity for growth,” Feldpausch said. “Additionally, she told us to be kind and humble to everyone we encounter.” 

GVSU’s fine arts programs find great opportunities for their students to get hands-on experience. In music, theatre or dance, GVSU regularly sources professionals to come and help their students grow. Feldpausch says there are many wonderful benefits to having professionals come and work with each student.

“Meeting professional musicians is very helpful because that is what I want to do with my future,” Feldpausch said. “I am always asking them questions as to how to improve my musical life, and I also find their stories as to how they got where they were very helpful.”

Dr. Frances Colón wanted the students she worked with and anyone in the fine arts department to know the effort to keep up with an artistic path has worthwhile rewards.

“As challenging as a career in fine arts might be, the rewards are beautiful,” Colón said. “Touching lives with what you love to do, is all that matters.”

To learn more about Dr. Frances Colón, her musical journey and more information on the Oboe Mobile Foundation, visit Oboe Mobile’s website.

For more information on workshops happening in the MTD departments, check out the MTD website on the GVSU website.