Jelena Dirks

Jelena Dirks

Oboe

Principal Morton D. May Chair

Appointed to the position of Principal Oboe of the St Louis Symphony Orchestra by Music director David Robertson in December of 2013, Jelena 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, as well as her grandmother who was a cellist in the San Diego Symphony.  She began studying the piano at age 5, and began playing with her mother soon after.  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.” 

Jelena was on the faculty of DePaul University from 2005-2014 where she taught both piano and oboe and was the woodwind coordinator.  She is highly sought after as both a teacher and performer and performed with virtually every major musical group in Chicago, including Lyric Opera, the Chicago Philharmonic, and five years of regular performances, tours, and recordings with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  She plays chamber music whenever possible, and was the oboist for the critically acclaimed Prairie Winds Quintet from 2003-2016.  She was a frequent guest artist on the CSO Chamber Music Series, and with the Chicago Chamber Musicians and is a frequent guest artist on the Missouri Chamber Music Festival in St Louis.  

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 Merilee Klemp, A. DeWayne Wee, Alex Klein, Harry Sargous, David McGill, and Logan Skelton.   

Jelena currently lives in the Central West End of St Louis with her husband, Aaron, a wine professional, (though they met in the University of Michigan Symphonic Band) and their rescue dog, Bear, who thinks that the possums and squirrels of St Louis are great fun to chase.