As a native of France, beginning my new career as principal oboe in the Philadelphia Orchestra in the winter of 2020 was not easy.

It was tough to be apart from my parents, who live in Greece, and my sister, who lives in Germany. I also have uncles and aunts in Chile, England, Singapore, and France, so family time together is especially complicated. As I settled in Philadelphia, I was reminded every day of their importance in my life.

About this series
The old saying goes that you can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends. As the holiday season begins, The Inquirer Opinion Department asked Philadelphians to share stories of how they've gathered a "chosen family." 

Friedrich Nietzsche said, “In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds closer together, and the music that brings harmony.” From the moment I arrived in Philadelphia, I felt as though I found peace and harmony here, because I felt loved by my fellow musicians.

The Philadelphia Orchestra, my Philadelphia Orchestra, is one of the most incredible families I have ever encountered. Harmony sparkles in this group because, even though we are individual musicians, we strive to make music together as a single, greater musical instrument. Through music, we are in constant dialogue, sharing with one another. Because we interact and communicate through our sounds and spirits, we form this close, beautiful, and unbreakable bond.

The speed at which this bond with my new orchestra was created amazed me, especially because my arrival coincided with the disruption and separation of the pandemic. Meeting people in person wasn’t really an option in the beginning — restaurants were largely closed, and indoor activities were prohibited. Making music was our mode of communication, at first digitally, and then, thankfully, together, as we began to gather again on stage at the Kimmel Center.

When we couldn’t gather in homes, I felt fortunate to have been invited to many birthday gatherings in parks with the woodwinds and brass (even in 40 degrees Fahrenheit!).

I will always remember being invited by colleagues to my first-ever Thanksgiving, and then by others to my first Christmas in Philadelphia. I have discovered myriad new passions through my friends, including restaurant-hopping, meeting new people, trying cheesesteaks, and enjoying great basketball at 76ers games. With them, it is pure joy, and we never stop laughing.

Not long after my arrival, some colleagues and mutual friends introduced me to a very special violinist in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York, who is now my girlfriend. I even spent my first American summer in Saratoga Springs with my “squad” from the orchestra.

Life is not a long and quiet river as we say, and these new colleagues and best friends have become my new chosen family — a family I know I can trust, one that I can count on, one I love, and to which I am very proud to belong.

Philippe Tondre is principal oboe for the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Read more stories of chosen families