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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Happy Holidays, Oboe Studio!

Because of sabbatical travels,  this is the first year that I'll miss the UWEC Oboe Studio Holiday Party. This has been an annual event when the oboe studio is invited to my house after the holiday concert. It's  a time for everyone to get together for a meal (homemade mac n' cheese,  anyone?) and fun times together.

I will miss all of you this year!!!! Perhaps we can reschedule for next semester?

In the meantime,  here are some pics from last year.  A few students weren't able to be there,  but here's most of you!  First the "serious" picture,  then the usual "funny" one.   Best of luck with your end-of-semester projects, finals, and juries and see you all in 2013!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Giving Thanks

A summer photo of the flock of turkeys that wander through our yard twice each day.  Too beautiful to eat for Thanksgiving, we've officially "pardoned" them. :)

For a few years my parents lived in a college town.  While there, they took part in an organization called "Worldwide Friends."  The organization provides a voluntary pairing of the university and community,  where participating international students are "paired" with individuals or families in the community.  The international students don't live with the community members, but are invited to the community member's home for occasional dinners, or out to social events, etc. It's a great way for  the many, many, international students to experience a bit of American life outside of the dorms and university. For the community members,  getting to know these students provides an invaluable "window to the outside world" on different cultures and customs.

Over the time that my parents were a part of Worldwide Friends,  countless students were "paired" with our family,  from countries literally ALL around the globe. My mom is a particularly fine cook and LOVES to feed a crowd,  so the students who were paired with our family really lucked out!!! The students were always encouraged to bring extra friends with them to dinners we hosted. Word got out  about mom's delicious food,  so the crowds seemed to get larger every year.  Walking into a home with the smells of freshly made bread,  a roasted turkey, etc may have been foreign to some, but a expertly and lovingly home cooked meal in an accepting and comfortable home,  no matter where on the globe, was a welcomed change from dorm food and college living for a day.

 Some of the most memorable dinners with the international students were at Thanksgiving. The extensions to the dining room table were added, along with extra chairs, and on occasion extra folding tables were necessary to accommodate all of the guests. Forks and knives sat next to chopsticks at each place setting to make sure that every guest felt at ease dining.  Menus usually featured a huge roasted turkey,  fresh bread, homemade dumplings, veggies, pies,  and even "Sandy's World Famous Apple Pie," a title given to mom's apple cake by one very appreciative student. The over-the-top title made my mom feel so special that it was sure to be on the menu whenever the student was there--ingenious student! :)  Mom and Dad loved to feed the hungry guests and the students in turn always did their best to appreciatively consume astounding amounts of food.  Looking around the table crowded with young adults from places literally spanning the the globe, we sometimes joked that it was like a model United Nations meeting--all colors, creeds, and backgrounds coming together for a shared meal, lively conversation, and goodwill.

Most of the students coming to an American Thanksgiving meal for the first time didn't quite know what the holiday was about.  The first year some of the international students brought gifts, understandably misinterpreting the "giving" that makes up part of the word "Thanksgiving."  We began informing the students beforehand that this is a secular holiday and gift-giving exchanges aren't a part of  Thanksgiving. This likely relieved some of the students who were unsure of what to expect, for those who subsisted on very limited budgets, or for those who might have fretted over what to give as a gift.  Instead,  we wanted the students to realize that they themselves were always the gift,  something no amount of money could buy. We shared with them that Thanksgiving is a holiday where families and friends come together,  often traveling great distances to be together.  The purpose of the holiday was to give thanks and have gratitude for that which means the most to us. As a family we were thankful to get to know our new friends and to be able to share a meal with them.

This year,  like every year,  I have so much to be thankful for. I have a wonderful family,  full of the very most loving, accepting, supportive, interesting, and FUN people in the world.  I also have the most wonderful husband, whom I love dearly, and we are fortunate to live comfortably and peacefully with a secure roof over our heads and plentiful food at all times. I have fantastic friends with whom I can rely on in good times and bad, share meaningful experiences, adventures and great meals together. I'm also lucky that some of my best friends are also colleagues with whom I get to collaborate with,  to challenge and inspire one another daily with honestly and sincerity. For all of this,  I have profound gratitude.

This year I'm also thankful for YOU, dear reader.  I've been fortunate to have readers from over 40 countries in the last month alone! That alone has absolutely amazed and humbled me. I'm thankful to share my thoughts with you and hope you find them helpful to your musicianship, learning and teaching. The opportunity to share some of my sabbatical ideas in the form of blog posts on has helped me connect with you and given me hope that my writing has interest and relevance to my profession.

The daily news reports remind me that our world is far from perfect.  But if we can realize, value and celebrate our shared humanity, respect and honor our differences, and act with integrity from these principles, then there is certainly a lot to be thankful for.

Oboe and out,

The Oboist

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Three Shameless Plugs for a Sunday

Hi All-

Three quick, shameless, plugs for a beautiful Sunday.

First, a fun oboe (and more) blog to check out:

Oboeinsight  (

Second,  an artist/ensemble that is new to me,  thanks to reading/linking in the Oboeinsight blog:

I've been listening to a lot of recordings by the countertenor Philippe Jaroussky this week.  What a lovely, velvety and soulful voice!  My favorite so far is Ohimè Ch'io Cado. View the following link to enjoy a "Monteverdi-meets-jazz" experience. It once again illustrates how similar Baroque and jazz styles can be.

Third is strictly for the oboists reading the blog.  I just received some Medir cane from Midwest Musical Imports. While I haven't made many reeds with it yet,  it seems pretty good.  Thought it'd be helpful to share a lead on good cane.  (Thanks, Steven Maijala!) 
And I'm always open to hearing about where you find good cane too!..... :)

Ok,  I know the title mentions three plugs,  but I couldn't help myself to a fourth!
A shout out to Jacqueline and Chris Wilson on an absolutely fantastic performance today live on the Wisconsin Public Radio broadcast,  Live From the Chazen.   Bravo!!  So happy for my wonderful colleagues!


That's all for now.  Enjoy your day!

Oboe and out.

The Oboist.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Congratulations to Alex, Katie and Johnathan---you're in print!!!!

The three students worked on a student-faculty collaborative research project this summer to examine the effects of relative cane hardness on reed making.  We processed and carefully measured three pounds of oboe cane and then made literally piles of reeds.  The university funded their research time,  so the students got paid to improve their reed making skills.  How cool is that????  At the end of the summer we examined our research and wrote an article together. Fingers were flying and sentences were edited at light speed as we used Google Docs on four separate laptops to write the paper together in the same room. So fun to see such energy involved in a collaborative writing project!

But why should I explain it here?  You can read all about it in The Double Reed vol. 35, No. 3 pp. 89-94.  The online version will be at

Pretty cool for undergraduate students to spend the summer studying and  improving their reed making skills, and now have a publication in an international journal to add to their résumé! 

 So,  what research project shall we propose for this summer?

Mahler Symphony #6 last night

Congratulations to an amazing oboe/English horn section for the Mahler Symphony #6 last night! It was an honor and a real pleasure to be a part of your oboe "team." Words can't express how rewarding it is to look down a strong section and realize I'm playing with former students,  so we'll let the fine playing speak for itself.

Great job Steven, Sarah, Alexandra, and Rebecca!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Got Spotify??

Have you checked out Spotify yet? 

 There's a lot of great stuff on the web,  but Spotify may be one of the best for musicians and music lovers.  Spotify is an application that allows you to listen to countless pieces of music on your computer.  You can search for a specific artist or composer/piece to listen.  All music genres are included. For free.  Really,  it's FREE.  Did you hear me? I said FREE!  There is often a short commercial after a piece/movement,  but that's a small price to pay for so much free music.  If you don't want the commercials or want Spotify access for your phone or iPad, etc you can pay a small fee to have that service.  In the meantime,  enjoy the vastness and freeness of the regular Spotify account.

The catch is that you need to have a Facebook account to use Spotify.  If Facebook scares you,  just set up a Facebook account then never check it (my brother and husband are quite good at this).  Then go to to set things up.

Having Spotify has really transformed the amount of pieces that I listen to every day.

For instance,  here's a view into some of the works I've enjoyed over the course of the week

I'll be sending a look into what I'm listening to each week.  In the meantime,  I hope you'll share with me some of the pieces/artists that inspire you! Happy listening!

Oboe and out,

Dr. G

Monday, October 15, 2012

Check out my other blog

Hi All!

For those of you who just can't get enough of all things oboe and oboe blogs specifically,  I encourage you to check out my other blog:

Some of the posts that I present on EauClaireOboes are duplicated on TheOboist,  but for the most part I write about topics pertaining to oboe pedagogy (the teaching and learning of the oboe) on that blog. In particular, some of the ideas that I'm working with during my sabbatical project will appear on TheOboist over the next few months.  It's a useful way for me to organize my thoughts and present them to an audience.   There are oboists from all around the world reading it,  and I hope everyone finds it useful or at least thought provoking in some way.  It sure is enjoyable to share what I know and enjoy doing. :)

Feel free to subscribe and make comments too!

Oboe and out,

Dr. G

Thursday, October 4, 2012

DIY Day---Making an Oboe Reed Case

Hi All!

It's DIY Day:  a day that would make even Martha Stewart proud to be an oboist!

When I go to schools to work with young players, I inevitably see students in need of the same basic supplies. Most often I notice that budding oboists open their oboe cases to get reeds out of either plastic “coffin” cases or plastic tube “vials.”  These cheap plastic containers are usually used to ship commercial reeds, but don’t do a great job at protecting a student’s reeds on a day-to-day basis.  Why?  Because “coffin” cases often don’t stay shut and it is easy for students to crush their reeds in the case while trying to snap it shut.  For the cylindrical vial cases, students often accidentally smash the ends of the reeds into the cotton or foam padding in the tube while putting on the cap to close them.  Reeds are expensive and fragile, but sturdy reed cases can be made inexpensively!

Materials needed to make a sturdy reed case:

1 empty Altoids container (Altoids are a breath mint that is sold in metal containers in the U.S) or other similar box

Weather Stripping for doors, size can vary,  but I use 3/8” wide X 5/16” thick (available at most hardware stores)

Razor blade or sharp scissors

  1.           Cut the weather stripping into short pieces ( 20 mm or so) and
  2.      Attach weather stripping pieces to the container.  Make sure that the stripping is placed close enough so that reeds can’t fall out.
  3.     An extra rubber band helps keep the box from opening.
       Creative students can decorate the boxes with markers/paints for individuality (Make Martha Stewart proud!)

Now, with the $$ saved, go buy some cane and make more reeds to fill up your new box!

Oboe and out,

Dr. G

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Alexandra Esser's Lovely Senior Oboe Recital

(Even though I'm on sabbatical,  I still get out for important oboe events at UWEC!)

Kudos to Alexandra Esser on her senior oboe recital!
It was performed on Monday,  Sept. 24th at 7:30 in Phillips Recital Hall on the UWEC campus.
She was assisted by:
Lori Cruciani,  piano
Sarah Kubiatowicz, oboe
Alex Widstrand, bassoon
Cody Christian, bass

Her program:

Trio Sonata in Bb Major  by G. F. Handel (1685-1759)

Fantasie Pastorale by Eugene Bozza (1905-1991)

Oboe Concerto in C Major by W.A. Mozart (1756-1791)

Blues for D.D. by Jeffrey Agrell (b. 1948)

Beautiful,  expressive playing by all!  Congratulations!!

Heres a post-recital pic of the soloist with the studio:

(top row: Jonathan, Katie, Alex, Megan, Dr. G,  Dr. Vecchione
bottom row: Jenni,  Haley, Stuart, Sarah)

Oboe and out,

Dr. G

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sabbatical? What's that?

For the 2012-2013 academic year,  I'm taking a sabbatical.  Many of you have asked what it is,  what I'm doing,  and want details.  So,  here 'tis.

First,  a sabbatical is a period of time (usually either a semester or a year) that a full-time faculty member does not teach,  but instead works intensely on an academic project. In the University of Wisconsin System,  a sabbatical is not instantly granted;  it is a privilege,  must be applied for, and is awarded on a competitive basis based on the project proposed as well as on the merit of past academic contributions. Usually a full-time faculty member is eligible to apply for a sabbatical every seven years.   The types of projects can vary widely between academic areas,  but the main function is to be engaged in intensive study to become more effective teachers and scholars and enhance our service to the University.  In addition,  it is encouraged that the sabbatical project contributes to the professional growth of the proposer and demonstrates both scholarly activity and faculty renewal.

So,  what is my project?

This year I'm finishing an oboe method that I've been working with for many years now.  It is a beginner's method book with accompanying DVD.  I'm also  toying with making the book into an ibook/ebook that combines the book and video components into a cohesive whole.  The book is intended to be useful for beginning players,  those learning how to teach the oboe to young players (such as band directors),  and for advanced oboists who are looking for new pedagogical material that explains the basic elements of playing.  There will be a large focus on the foundations of successful oboe playing,  such as use of air, air support,  embouchure, and hand position.   I find that these core elements are sadly lacking in seemingly advanced students,  so I want to create a book that teaches  and builds these important elements from the very start.  The musical examples used will be drawn from both the classical canon and folk traditions from around the world.

In addition to creating the book,  I'm also piloting sections of the book with budding oboists in local/regional schools.  I'm really excited to work first-hand with a number of young players! My goal is to reflect on the learning that the students are experiencing and modify the book as needed to enhance the learning outcomes of the book.

My project will take the entire academic year,  so I  will not be around campus very much.  I'm already missing my great students very much!!!!  However,  the time away to work on a project without all of the usual whirlwind of classes/meetings/etc, etc will be a refreshing change.  I'm mostly working on my project while in Eau Claire, so  I'm still available to students by email and prospective students can still schedule times to meet with me/ have a lesson,  etc and I'll be all geared up to again teach in the fall of 2013!

So,  for those of you who think I'm not teaching this year and am simply goofing off,  I have to say that you're (mostly) sadly mistaken. I am daily putting in long hours on the book, but  I'm also enjoying lots of practice time and exploring new repertoire that look forward to sharing it with you on my return!

I hope to write frequently over the course of the year to keep you updated with goings on and new discoveries.  Stay posted!

Oboe and out,

Dr. G

Friday, September 7, 2012

Dear Prospective Student:

For anyone interested in studying music with me,  prepare yourself for the following questions.  :)  I feel that these give us BOTH some helpful starting points to bring about improvement on several different levels.

Dear Prospective Student:

Thank you for contacting me!  I VERY MUCH look forward to meeting you.

I'd be happy to give you a lesson,  but I need the following information to be the MOST help to you.  If you are an advanced student (having studied some at the college level already),  please answer all of the questions below.  If you are newer to the oboe,  you may not have answers to all of the questions,  but I ask that you answer as many as you can and be OPEN to seeking new answers for the questions you do not presently know.

1. What in your own oboe playing are you most proud of?
2. What aspects of your playing are you most looking to improve?

3. If these aspects of your playing that need improvement have previously been identified by other teachers,  how have you sought to improve upon them?  What has worked,  and what hasn't?

4. Why are you seeking oboe lessons?
5. Why are you seeking lessons from me,  in particular?

6. How much do you currently practice?
7. Does that seem to be enough time for you to make the improvement you seek?
8. If the above answer is no,  are you willing to make time sacrifices in other areas of your life to make time for more practice to attain your goals for improvement?
9. When you do practice,   how do you divide your time (scales?  long tones? solo pieces? etudes?)
10. Are there any practice methods in particular that you are most proud of/found the most improvement from?
11. How do you work through difficult passages?
12. What do you do on days when you feel like you aren't able to focus or aren't accomplishing much?

The internet (youtube, Spotify, Pandora, personal musician's and orchestra websites, etc) offer a WEALTH of opportunities to listen to,  study, and learn from professional oboists.

1.Which musicians do you particularly admire? (oboists in particular,  but other classical artists are certainly fair game here)
2. What pieces by your favorite artists have you listened to recently?
3. Do you listen to art music generally on a daily or weekly basis?
4. How frequently do you listen to your favorite artists--on a daily or weekly basis?
5. What have you learned from listening to them and how has it informed your own playing?

6. What questions do you have for me?  :)

Again,  I want to reiterate how much I look forward to meeting you and doing my best to help you develop as a musician.

See you soon!

Christa Garvey

Great Concerts Don't Have to be TOOOOOO Expensive!

Hi All!

For those of you in the Eau Claire region,  did you know about the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's Club 2030?

It's for anyone ages 18-39 who would like to attend the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's concerts for only $10!!  How cool is that???  You'll get the the best available seat at any of their concerts in the 10 venues across the Twin Cities.  As a club member you are also are also welcome to post-concert happy hours at various times during the season where you can meet the SPCO musicians and guest artists.

Go to great concerts!  Hear Kathy Greenbank's exquisite playing (she's the Principal oboist and one of my favorite players)!  Post-concert, mingle with others who like the same music as you! Enjoy free food and wine!

Get a group of friends to road trip to the TC for an enjoyable evening!!

Sounds like a great opportunity!  I'm going to sign up now....

See you there!

Oboe and out,

Dr. G

Monday, April 30, 2012

An Evening of French Music for Oboe (Hautbois)

Congratulations to the UWEC Oboe Studio on fine performances at the studio recital on Wednesday April 25th!

The program:

Here's a picture of the happy musicians:

So proud of all of you!  Now on to a great finish to the semester and excellent jury performances in two weeks!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Two Oboe Concertos in ONE NIGHT

Here ye, Here YE!  

All oboists in the region,  I'd like to invite you to a very special concert! 

 On THURS. MARCH 15th at 7:30 PM,  the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire Symphony Orchestra will be performing a concert featuring the student concerto competition winners.  This year TWO OBOISTS are winners.  Come hear Alexandra Esser beautifully  perform the Mozart Oboe Concerto and Sarah Kubiatowicz beautifully perform the Strauss Oboe Concerto.  So very proud of these students and all of their hard work and great playing!

The concert will be at 7:30 in Gantner Concert Hall in the Haas Fine Arts Center.

Wish them well, mark your calendars and see you there!

Here's picture taken of the happy oboe soloists:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Oboe and the Grammys

Eau Claire's own Bon Iver has won two Grammy awards and the town and university are all a buzz.  I'm so happy for Justin Vernon and Sean Carey,  two UWEC grads who have worked so hard to develop and maintain an artistic vision. It's great to see that the "industry" has recognized their artistry too. However,  keep in mind that these folks were talented BEFORE the awards were given.  I knew Sean throughout his time at UWEC and even taught him several courses in music theory. He didn't suddenly become talented.  It was/is a continued process of hard work, creative thinking, curiosity, and good decisions.  In his time here I'd definitely describe him as outstanding.  That's  makes the award recognition even more meaningful for me-- it's so great to see an outstanding person be recognized for outstanding work.

Students,  this should be a great opportunity to reflect on your goals and what you are doing daily to achieve them. You may or may not have a goal to win a Grammy,  but you CAN dedicate yourself to achieve excellence in your endeavors.

 Keep up the outstanding work; you never know where it might lead you.

Oboe and out,


ps--Bon Iver:  don't you think you need some heartfelt, soulful oboe tracks for your next project???  I'll be ready for the phone call and an enthusiastic collaborator...  :)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I encourage you to read this interesting and timely article on creativity by Michael Michalko:

So much of what we as musicians/oboists/reedmakers do is incredibly detail oriented,  but we can't loose sight of the bigger picture of creating and expressing ART.  To do this effectively,  we must have a high degree of skill, but this can and should be acquired hand-in-hand with creativity every step of the way. The final paragraph of Michalko's article sums up creativity and creative thinking nicely:

Creativity is paradoxical. To create, a person must have knowledge but forget the knowledge, must see unexpected connections in things but not have a mental disorder, must work hard but spend time doing nothing as information incubates, must create many ideas yet most of them are useless, must look at the same thing as everyone else, yet see something different, must desire success but embrace failure, must be persistent but not stubborn, and must listen to experts but know how to disregard them.

Oboe and out,


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Penny Game

I use this "game" with students of ALL ages as a way to work through difficult sections.

  Gather 5 pennies and put them on the left side of your music stand.  Play the difficult passage.  If you play it correctly,  then slide a penny across to the right side of the stand.  Play the passage again.  If you play it correctly once more, then slide another penny across to the other side of the stand.  If you make a mistake on any of the passage,  then ALL pennies go back to the left side and you begin again.  Once you can play the previously difficult passage 5 times in a row well,  then try at a faster tempo, etc. This a a great study in patience,  focus,  and most importantly...accuracy.

Or,  if you REALLY want to LEARN a passage thoroughly,  put 10 pennies on the stand. :)

This is great preparation for orchestral excerpts and scales.  Maintain awareness of good body use at all times and you'll really build positive "habits" for a life of great playing.

So, check for spare change in those couches and get practicing!

Oboe and Out,


Listen Up, Gang!

Listen Up, Gang!
Are you dedicated to preparing yourself to this often arduous yet deeply meaningful and important profession? How much? The kind needed to actually be a successful performer, educator, citizen of the world? For a college student that of course means finishing all your practicing and studying before time with friends, family, and significant others--and certainly before video games and pop-music. But there’s more to it that just practicing your art.  There’s more art music (otherwise known as “classical music,” the wonderous stuff you’re at college to immerse yourself in because you feel “passionate” about it) to learn and listen to than you could EVER experience in your entire lifetime, so are you embracing new sounds or repeatedly listening to the few works you know or have known for years?

 If we just stick to the historic “greats”---how much Bach, Beethoven and Mozart do you know?  If you search a list of the 100 “greatest” pieces (I use the “greatest” designation veeeeery loosely), how many sound familiar?? How many could you identify? How many do you know well enough to hum significant parts of? How many pieces do you know for your own instrument? How many can you play? Perform? Hum from memory? If you’re really passionate about this music life, dig in and dig the music. Life is short; there’s lots of music. Go get it!

Some Top 100 lists/links are below to give you a start.  I can't say I agree with all of the choices,  but familiarize yourself with these pieces and let's discuss! :)  :)

 200 Pieces listed here:

100 Great pieces from the 20th Century:

Here's a link to the most "famous" 100,  not necessarily the "best"

Have you checked out Spotify? Wow!  What a grrreat and FREE way to listen to a WORLD of music!! 

Oboe and out,


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Double Reed Day at UW-Madison Coming Up

Oboist Marc Fink and bassoonist Marc Vallon, faculty members at UW-Madison will be hosting their 2012 Double Reed Day on Jan 14th from 1-8pm. I encourage anyone in the region to go!  Richard Killmer, amazing pedagogue from the Eastman School of Music will be leading a masterclass. Don't miss this opportunity to learn from these extraordinary teachers!

Hope to see you there!

Oboe and out,


Monday, January 9, 2012

Performing and Doing Your Best

Here's a link you might find interesting:

Joshua Bell on Messing Up His First Violin Competition

Sometimes it's healthy to know that even very fine musicians make mistakes like the rest of us.  What is more important is how we deal with those mistakes.  Bravo to Bell for telling his story!

At some points in my life I've felt nervous when performing simply because I was afraid to make mistakes in front of an audience. The simple act of one mistake could derail me mentally for the rest of the piece and compound errors. After lots of performing and even more thinking about this,  I realized I was putting fear of mistakes above the joy/responsibility to communicate great music. I  think I'd now be most nervous if  I didn't have anything to SAY with my music.  This has completely changed how I practice and study scores.  Once I KNOW I have something to express,  then I'm focused on that and try my best to share my music with an audience and ENJOY,  truely ENJOY performing.

Some questions I use to help me learn a piece come from Frances Clark's Tests of Interpretation.  Elaine Douvas, the wonderful oboist/pedagogue from Juilliard and The Met Opera Orchestra gave me these when I studied with her.  My students regularly get grilled on these questions too---in their weekly lesson sheets I ask if they'd answered each of the questions. Some students see this as a useless routine,  getting in the way of learning the notes,  but just learning the notes isn't the point of our studies AT ALL!  Studying the structure, meaning, and expressive elements of a piece are the keys to understanding a work and being able to communicate it to an audience.

Here are some important questions to ask yourself concerning musical expression, adapted from Elaine Douvas and Frances Clark’s Tests of Interpretation.

  1. Overall, what is the character of this piece? What do I want to express?
  2. Where is the highpoint of the entire piece?
  3. Do I sufficiently prepare for it and give it the suspense and effect that it requires?
  4. Where is the highpoint of each phrase?
  5. If I can’t feel the highpoint of the phrase, do I sing suitable words to it in an effort to capture its message?

6.   Does everything that I do sound authoritative?
  1. Do I begin each phrase clearly, cleanly, and expressively?
  2. Do I let each phrase end sufficiently before beginning another?

  1.  Is the long rhythmic pulse of the piece set at the beginning and held steadily throughout?
  2.  Do I avoid making overly exaggerated ritards?
  3. Do I revitalize the tempo immediately after a ritard?
  4. If playing the accompaniment, does it give true, basic vitality to the composition?
  5. Do I give full value to all the final beats in the measure or do I hurry into the next measure, thereby impairing the pulse?

  1. Is there a tremendous difference between my fortissimos and pianissimos with infinite gradations between the extremes?
  2. Do my crescendos start softly enough and my acccelerandos deliberately enough?
  3. Do all of my notes have a singing quality? Especially in the upper notes?
  4. Do I give repeated notes and sequences careful treatment?
  5. Is there something of interest going on at all times? If I stop playing the melody, do I make something of the accompaniment?

I hope these questions help you too!

Oboe and out,


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Some Words of Wisdom from Oboist Stevens Hewitt

Stevens Hewitt was a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the author of a unique oboe method. Below are some of his words of wisdom.  From the IDRS Journal Vol. 1 No. 2

For the teacher: God does not engage in theology. Do not destroy by reasonings the faith required to play.***

We do not know what Vivaldi's performances in the past sounded like. But, if he were in the hall, would he enjoy this one?***

Ask the teacher for information rather than advice.***

The teacher cannot teach the student something that he does not already know.***

As you study more, you do not rise above a large amount of lesser players. Only the fine players appear even better.***

Do you think you can pay attention to what is required? I doubt it.***

Playing with a metronome is like drawing a straight line with a ruler to fit the blueprint. You must be able to draw a straight line without the ruler.***

Every day you must raise the price of your notes.***

Travel the beaten path. You will have less company than you think. The smart explorer will take the super-highway until forced to hack through the underbrush ***

Do you analyze "if only", or, "next time"?***

Never take the audience back-stage.***

Your performance is not the answer (as in the "Hear and Die" school of playing). It is the question.***

For a musician money is time.***

All men are born in bondage and unequal. Practice is your only chance for freedom and equality.***

Unfortunately for you, I measure myself by what I plan to do, and you by what I hear.***

The notes will not fall off the page into the fingers . . .***

One does not eat exclusively, soup for a week, fish for a week, bread for a week. Practice everything.***

Strike while the iron is hot. If you relax in your progress, or the repetition of your effort before its particular object is obtained, all of your preceding toil will be entirely lost.***

Eat the meal, not the menu.***

Technique is a test of a musician's sincerity.***

The value of an exercise lies only in the manner of performing it.***

Memory of how it feels is your only method.***

The requirement in a teacher is only that he should possess what the student needs.***

The idea of learning is to enhance what you are, not to avoid what you are.***

Practicing is not what people think it is. It is not just something which, when it is operating, you can hear from the outside.***

Learning is an activity. Learning through words is a mirror activity.***

Green wood can be bent. When it is dry it is only straightened by fire.***

Your teacher is not what you think him to be. Think, therefore, of the music. It is something like you think it to be.***

If you still ask "Why did he give me this, and in this way, and can I fit this into my playing?" you did not understand what he gave you.***

The student looked up and saw the devil sitting near him. The student said "Why are you sitting there, making no trouble?" The demon raised his head sadly. "Since the teachers of music have graduated in such numbers there is nothing left for me to do."***

Music is actually too difficult for musicians. It should be left to the music critics, for whom no problem is too difficult.***

As to conductors: Conduct an orchestra as you would fry bananas for "Bananas Foster". (see publisher June Emerson's catalog for the recipe). The more you stir things up with a stick, the more of a mess you will make."