Turning Oboe Lemons into Lemonade

Playing the oboe isn’t easy. Reedmaking isn’t always easy either. So how do you stay focused and know if you are really making progress, or just spinning your wheels? It’s funny, because this is something I always notice in hindsight. Usually at the time in question, I either feel incredibly overworked or just plain discouraged. I feel like I am trying hard, but not getting anywhere. It happened a lot…

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Improving Your Tone on the Oboe

Running an oboe reed business and all, I often get requests or inquiries about reeds and the desired tone they’ll produce. And while I agree that reeds play an important part in determining your sound on a given day, I am old-fashioned and in favor of hard work to get the tone you want!! I’ll always think of my teacher, Richard Killmer, who could take your most crude, unfinished reed…

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Playing the Oboe: When Technique Doesn’t Matter

When I was a student at Juilliard Pre-College, I was probably at the peak of my early learning about music and the oboe. I remember feeling continually challenged, and I could practice for hours on end. My teacher was especially demanding, and I learned all kinds of things about the oboe, especially about oboe technique. It was at times excruciating to go through all of the Barrett book’s articulation studies……

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Need a New Oboe Piece?

Question I’m a student and I will have my exam recital this May. The program has to contain a modern/contemporary piece (my teacher claims Poulenc and Britten do not fall into that category, they are too old). So, I’m out of ideas! I would like to find an interesting/cool/beautiful piece and not strange just for the sake of being strange, also one that I can have a chance to play…

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Which Are You Playing? The Oboe or the Music?

Play the music, not the instrument. – Author Unknown Boy how true… especially for us oboe players who spend so much time trying to get along with such a finicky instrument. How often have you spent more time trying to play the oboe than you have trying to play the music through the oboe? I know I’ve done it many times. And it’s always somewhat comforting to remember what’s really…

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Fear and the Oboe

“Fear has a smell, as love does.” -Margaret Atwood- I think the appropriate adaptation of this quote for oboists is “fear has a sound.” It does not matter how much you practice or how good or bad you think your reed is. Fear is obvious, and it is a sound that has no place in music. My very wise teacher had a saying along the same lines that I will…

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From the Oboe Notebook: Richard Woodhams Masterclass 4/13/95

Here’s a page from my Oboe Notebook (one of them) back from a Masterclass I took with Richard Woodhams. It’s funny to look back at old things like this. It makes you realize how far you’ve come… and gives you the encouragement you need to go even farther. Take a look at the page, it’s still good advice from a master. To see the large version (that you can read),…

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English horn, the Nutcracker and sore arms

We were driving to my grandmother’s house today for a holiday get-together when I chanced upon some production of the Nutcracker playing on the radio. One of the amazing things about music is how certain pieces can bring back a flood of memories in an instant. The first thing I thought about when I heard the Nutcracker was how sore my arm was the last time I had to play…

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You have to love it more than anything else. Really?

Have you ever read an article where some famous music teacher says words like these to the young, unsuspecting music student: “You should only choose a career in music if you love it more than anything else.” Or maybe something like this: “A career in music isn’t easy, so if you have anything else you can do, do that instead.” I read an article the other day that was loaded…

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Life Lessons from a Cellist

Not sure what it is about commencement speeches this week, but I keep attracting them. I was cleaning out one of my oboe closets yesterday and came across a copy of a commencement address delivered by the famous cellist, Lynn Harrell, to the graduating class of the Cleveland Institute of Music in 1994. Rather than make any comments about it, I think I’ll let it speak for itself: Commencement Address…

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