Saturday, June 21, 2014

Is your oboe embouchure tired? For a quick fix, say your vowels.

In the next few posts I'll be exploring endurance on the oboe.

 In the meantime,  here's a little gem that I learned during an all-day rehearsal waaaaaaaay back when I was in high school performing in the Indiana All-State Orchestra.

If your embouchure muscles are tired,  say your vowels:


Now,  say them again, but REALLY SLOWLY and exaggerate the facial muscles to say them:

AAAAAAAAAAAAA  (open your mouth up as wide as can be!)

EEEEEEEEEEEEEE (spread your corners of your mouth far apart!)

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII  (this is my favorite for stretching the sides of your embouchure)

OOOOOOOOOOO (engage the top lip and stretch it down)

UUUUUUUUUUUU  (this one really feels funny when exaggerated!)

Whenever your face muscles start to feel tired,  take a short break and say your vowels again. These should help stretch your embouchure muscles and give your face a quick fix.
Now get back to practicing and go get awesome!

Oboe and out,

Dr. Garvey

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summertime: A great time to improve your oboe skills!

While in the perfect world we'd all get into the prestigious summer music festival of our choice with a full scholarship,  that's not always the reality. However,  as a budding college level musician,  you have the perfect opportunity to start thinking like the entrepreneurial musician you'll HAVE to be once you graduate.

Here are just a few ways to the advance your skills over the summer without breaking the bank:

1. Take some  lessons with a different teacher.  This will give you a different perspective and widen your knowledge of professional oboists at the same time.  Bring in specific technical issues that you've been working with during the semester with your university teacher and see if this other teacher can help you solve the problem/suggest ways to approach the issue in a new way for you.  Sometimes a slightly different way of teaching can help you understand what your first teacher was trying to teach you in the first place.

2. Don't have much $ for lessons? Barter. See if the teacher will give you lessons for reduced rates in exchange yard work, help with home repairs, babysitting, etc. etc. I think most teachers would be happy to make a arrangement like this if possible.

3. Teach lessons to younger players. Hit the pavement and contact area band directors and offer to help with summer band, put up flyers to promote your oboe studio, etc. Every time you teach a lesson to a younger player,  you're reinforcing how you approach the oboe to yourself (as well as your student!)
Some of the $ you earn can be used for TAKING lessons with the teacher of your choice in #1.

4. Make reeds for younger players. Make sure they are stable and easy blowing, then sell to your private students and their band classmates.  Use the $ you earn to purchase your own reed supplies/tools. A few regular customers can keep you well stocked with your own cane AND the extra time spent on reed making is GUARANTEED to improve your skills by regularly making reeds throughout the summer.

4. Contact teachers from other area colleges/universities and see if they will give you the contact info for their oboe students. These oboe students are your future professional colleagues,  so contact them to read chamber music, make reeds together and play for one another. Trust me,  can never have too many oboe friends in this profession!

5. Perform a summer recital. Use some of the pieces that you've learned over the last year or semester, maybe share the recital with a new or old oboe friend,  or a former high school classmate who also went on to study music in college.  Play the recital at your old high school, a local church, community center or  senior center. Invite your family, old friends and teachers who likely haven't heard you since high school and they will be amazed at your progress!

6.  If you're currently playing in a chamber ensemble at school,  keep the group together over the summer. If all of the ensemble members live in the same region (of several hours or so),  meet up for a few rehearsals,  then give a concert in each of your hometowns. What a great way to improve your ensemble skills over the summer AND have fun performing together. With home stays and carpooling,  this doesn't have to cost much at all.

7. Look for summer bands to perform in.  Many communities have live band music in the parks (there's a thriving series here in Eau Claire with most of the members comprised of current and retired band directors and other amateur music lovers).  Most groups would LOVE to have an good oboist join them!

8. Ask members of the summer band to read chamber music with you. There's LOADS of free music to download on! Once summer when I was in college I played in a summer band with many amateurs.  An elderly gentleman playing clarinet gathered a few of us to read chamber music and it was unforgettable. The technical levels of the musicians might not have been that high,  but their love of music and enthusiasm for chamber music was a true inspiration.

9. Set personal goals for yourself at the beginning of the summer. Then STICK to them.  Maybe your goal is to practice more, learn a few new pieces, master a technical issues, etc.  Write out a plan then hold yourself accountable.  Let your summer teacher know your plans and help guide you as well.

10. Go to an area where there are street performers (often known as "buskers"). Go out and play. Open your case and even earn a few dollars.  The money isn't the important part here--this is an opportunity for you to play for a public audience.  What sort of playing is needed to capture the attention of passers by?  It's a great lesson in getting to know a diverse audience and trying out new repertoire.

These are just the few ideas that come to mind immediately,  but all have the potential to broaden your experiences and deepen your skills.  Please add your own suggestions for summer playing in the comments section below!

Oboe and out,

Dr. Garvey

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Are You Interested in Studying Oboe in College?

Are you considering studying oboe in college?

There are still a few audition dates left for anyone interested in studying music at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire beginning Fall 2014

Thursday, January 16, 2014 - Haas Fine Arts Center, UW-Eau Claire
Saturday, February 15, 2014 - Haas Fine Arts Center, UW-Eau Claire
Saturday, March 8, 2014 - Haas Fine Arts Center, UW-Eau Claire

10:00 a.m. - Register for afternoon placement times, Fine Arts Center Lobby
10:30 a.m. - Information session for applicants and parents.
11-12:30 p.m. - Aural skills test
Beginning at noon - Performance placement and scholarship auditions and keyboard placement. (times identified at 10:00 a.m. check-in)

For more information,  click on the link below:

 UWEC Audition Application

 As a faculty member at UWEC, I'd like to tell you a little more about our program. While I am interested in the possibility of having you join the UWEC Oboe Studio next fall, my primary goal is to help you find the right school for YOU.

The University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire is an internationally recognized university of about 11,000 students overall and the music program is the largest is the state, with 375 undergraduates. We do not have a graduate program,  and there are a wealth of performance opportunities for all oboe majors including orchestra, two bands,  and numerous chamber music ensembles. 

We have a select group of 9 oboe students at UWEC and while the studio is large,  it is a very supportive group of fun, talented, and creative people! In addition to weekly lessons,  there are also a weekly studio class and reed making class for all oboe majors.Because I am a full-time faculty member,  I am always here to answer questions and help with last-minute reed and instrument fixes as needed. 

We have a reed room where oboists/bassoonists can make reeds (and they seem to enjoy hanging out there too!). The reed room was outfitted with over $10,000 of reed making equipment several years ago,  so students have access to a number of shaper tips, a gouging machine, etc, etc for reed making.  We also regularly bring in guest artists for masterclasses and arrange trips to the Twin Cities for concert experiences as opportunities arise. In addition, I encourage students to take opportunities to study abroad and explore the world during their time in college. Recent students have studied abroad in Sweden, Austria, Italy, and Scotland.

Several years ago a former UWEC graduate donated 3 Loree oboes to the studio. This allows students in need of purchasing a new oboe to have a professional model oboe to play while they save up money. Or, if your own oboe is in the shop for repairs,  there's an instrument to use in the meantime. We also have several English horns available for student use as well.

Recent success stories of oboe students: 

  • In the the last 2 UWEC Orchestra Concerto Competitions, the 4 wind players who won were ALL oboists (performing the Mozart, Goossens, and  Strauss Oboe Concertos, respectively)
  • Three students participated in the 2013 John Mack Oboe Camp in Wildacres, NC
  • A student recently participated in the Walt Disney internship program in Orlando, FL 
  •  Three students collaborated with me on a research project that culminated in an article that was published last fall in the International Double Reed Society Journal.
UWEC oboe graduates are successful performers and teachers throughout the region and internationally in China and Hong Kong. Some have also gone on to graduate studies in both performance and education. My students work hard,  but they achieve great goals and enjoy the process along the way. 

I maintain a very active performance schedule both on an off campus to promote oboe playing and to demonstrate what I teach.  I perform solo recitals each year on campus, present performances on campus with the UWEC Faculty Wind Quintet, perform in the Eau Claire Chamber Orchestra, the Chippewa Valley Symphony,  and perform as a member of the Virtualosity Duo. I continue to perform on the national and international level to build recognition of the program at UWEC and to foster relationships with musicians and audiences around the globe. I'm also currently developing an oboe method for beginning oboists and have a great interest in oboe pedagogy (the study of teaching the oboe). If you are interested, you can find sound excerpts of my playing can be found at (scroll to the bottom of the page to find the sound links). 

The music education program at UWEC is an absolute standout in the state and Midwest region. Our graduates are HIGHLY sought after and our placement rate for recent graduates is still close to 100% (even in this tough economy). A large percentage of music majors at UWEC are seeking music education degrees and our department highly values the special needs of education majors and seeks to foster an inclusive yet challenging environment. Our graduates also hold prominent positions in the WMEA (Wisconsin Music Education Association) and are outstanding leaders in the field. 

If you are considering UWEC,  I highly encourage you to contact me and visit campus during the week when classes are in session.  You could observe a music theory class, sit in with one of the bands or orchestra and have a lesson with me to get a feel for what the department is like.  Or,  if travel is prohibitive,  contact me for a Skype meeting/lesson. Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can assist you with your college decisions. I look forward to hearing from you!

Warmest regards,

Dr. Christa Garvey

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mark Your Calendars! The UWEC Double Reed Day is Sunday, October 27th!

Come join us for a day of double reed-filled fun in the Haas Fine Arts Center at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire! All ages, levels, and backgrounds of oboe and bassoon players are welcome to attend. The day will begin with UWEC double reed faculty performing a short recital to welcome everyone to the day. Then we’ll break into smaller groups with sessions of specific interest for bassoonists and oboists. After lunch we invite all of you to participate in the rehearsal for massed double reed ensemble led by Dr. Stewart, UWEC director bands. After the rehearsal the UWEC faculty will lead masterclasses for both oboe and bassoon. The day concludes with our massed double reed ensemble concert. Throughout the day specialists from Midwest Musical Imports ( will have new instruments to try, as well as tools and accessories for purchase. While registration will be accepted at the door,  we encourage you to please register by Oct. 15th.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Musician in Training: Some thoughts for the new school year

I'm looking forward to seeing all of the UWEC oboists when classes begin Sept. 3rd!

In anticipation of the new school year,  I thought I'd repost something I wrote in my other blog,  The topic is particularly important for all of you.


The Musician in Training: Some thoughts for the new school year

  I always think the new academic year in early fall is a time of great excitement and renewal, and for me is like   most people'sNew Year's Day on January 1st.  It's a time to reflect on past accomplishments and consider how we want to improve ourselves and our careers. With that in mind,  I thought I'd write a post to all of you music students out there with a little advice on being a student.

(I got to the "22nd grade" as a doctoral student,  so I had lots of experience!)

  • First and foremost, remember that you are both a student scholar and a  musician in training. Keep your goals in mind with all that you do.

  •  You'll likely have some auditions at the beginning of the school year for ensemble placement. This isn't a test to see how you match up with others in your studio or school. This is an opportunity to test YOURSELF to see how much you've improved. Don't compare yourself to others or be jealous if someone gets a better placement than you. Only compare your playing to where YOU want to be. And I don't mean who gets first chair, etc. That's petty stuff that no one cares about in the really big picture. Think about skill attainment, improvement on  specific techniques,  repertoire that you want to master, opportunities to seek out, etc. Then go get it! 

  •  Get organized! Write out your schedule in a weekly calendar. Know when your classes are and then WRITE in the times that you plan to STUDY and PRACTICE and MAKE REEDS. Then stick to it. 

  •  No really, I mean it. Stick to your schedule. That way you'll look back on the day with a sense of accomplishment instead of feeling behind. 

  • Find a quiet place to study, away from the music building, reed room, or any other distractions. The school library is built for this! Use that time to really study and learn all that your classes have to offer. Turn off your cell phone. As a scholar in training, your study time is yours alone.
  •  If your teacher asks you to purchase specific music and reed materials, do so!  If some of the materials are too expensive for you,  be honest and TELL your teacher that you have financial constraints. They can often help you come up with an alternative plan or order fewer supplies, etc. But if you don't tell the teacher and don't show up to reed class or lessons with the proper music/supplies,  it will just seem like you're not interested or unorganized. For music, order it through interlibrary loan until you can buy your own. Find a way to work around your problems.
  •  Realize that your teacher has your best interests in mind. When your teacher gives you an assignment that you don't like,  don't whine or avoid it. Your teacher was a student at one time too, but they also know from direct experience what it takes to get a job. Listen to what they have to say and do what they assign.

  • If you don't understand what your teacher is teaching you, ASK for clarification. Even if you think you'll feel/ look "dumb." You only look "dumb" if you DON"T ask,  because then you'll surely not   understand the concept. Teachers are here to help you and usually like to know when they need to clarify a point.

  •  Never be afraid to stop in a professor's office hours. Stop in for extra questions and help. Really,  PLEASE! I can't tell you how many times I've had no students stopping in during office hours even though I KNOW some students are struggling. Office hours are YOUR time that you've PAID for as a student.  

  •  Minimize distractions while practicing. Turn off your cell phone. If there's a window on the practice room door, either put paper over it or turn your back to it so you don't see other students in the hall. Resist the urge to chat half of your practice away with others in the practice room areas. You can't count that time as practice! And let your friends know that when you're practicing, to not disrupt you. When you are in the practice rooms......practice.

  • Get enough sleep. You're probably thinking,  "yeah right!  I'm a busy music major! We don't sleep!!" If you have a schedule, stick to it, and still don't have time for everything you do,  then do less. Cut out the extra clubs, gigs, etc until you have a sustainable life. Remember that this is YOUR time as a musician in training to learn as much as you possibly can.

  •  Eat well. The junk food you've eaten as a teen won't sustain you very well as a musician in training. You're an adult now.  Eat veggies and fruits and only consume as little caffeine as is necessary (it can really affect nerves/performance anxiety). Foods with lots of sugar and fat will only make you feel lethargic and unfocused. So very not fun.

  •  Get some exercise. Add it into your schedule. As a college student you likely have a recreation center/pool/fitness classes that are really affordable. Use these resources to become a strong, healthy scholar musician in training. This will have important benefits for years to come. At the very least, take short practice breaks by taking a walk. Get out of that music building and breath some fresh air. The exercise will clear your mind and help you focus on your next endeavors as a scholar and musician in training.

  • Your fellow students are your colleagues NOW and are your FUTURE colleagues/contacts in our great profession after you graduate. Be supportive of one another and learn from each other! You'll be amazed at how many doors can open to you by being a good person and reliable colleague NOW. That big job you apply for just might have a former classmate on the hiring committee. They'll likely remember you, so make sure it is a positive memory. 

  • Form study groups with the strongest students. Learn how they learn. Take mini lessons from older students whom you admire. Learn how they learn.

  • Be kind to those struggling; they may not have had the advantages you've enjoyed. Share with them what you know and teach them how to succeed.
  • Work hard, but enjoy the process. Have fun with your fellow classmates and make some great music!

That's all for now. I'm SURE I'll have more to share soon.

Oboe and out,

Dr. G

Monday, May 27, 2013

Update: Joins us for the Oboe Reed Making Bootcamp, June 24-28th

For those of you who are interested in the Reed Making Bootcamp June 24th-28th in Eau Claire, WI,  here are some more details.

1. The camp is perfect for beginning oboe and English horn reed makers,  experienced reed makers wishing to refine their reed making skills,  or anyone wanting to join in with fun people to stockpile great reeds for the summer and fall.

2.The reed making sessions will be from June 24-28th and consist 2,  2.5 hour sessions each day (one from 10-12:30 and another from 3-5:30). The sessions will take place in my office at UW-Eau Claire. In-between those times I be available to teach 30 min oboe lessons to anyone interested (3 lessons for each student over the course of the week are available). 

3. If there are enough reed makers,  we could have some ad-hoc duo, trio, or oboe ensemble sight-reading sessions for fun.  There will be ALL levels at the reed table,  from several beginners to professionals, high-school, college,  adults. The aim is to welcome a diverse community of oboe lovers who simply want to learn more about reed making, playing oboe, and learn from each other in good company.

4. There will be no fees for the reed sessions,  just come as you can. However,  I will have quite a bit of gouged/shaped/folded cane available,  and I ask that anyone using the cane makes a donation to help cover those costs.    

5. If you are under 18 years of age,  please have your parents contact me.  Please note that I am not able to provide supervision outside of reed sessions, transportation, or housing. Hopefully in years to come if there is sufficient interest we can organize this into a more formal event with housing, supervised activities for minors outside of reed sessions, etc!

6. Do you need tools for reed making? Contact me for a list of tools you'll need and places to get them.

Contact:  Hope to see you there!

Oboe and out,

Dr. G

Monday, April 29, 2013

Join us for an Oboe Reed Maker's Bootcamp June 24th-28th

Oboe Reed Maker's Bootcamp June 24th-28th

Want to learn how to make reeds for the first time? Just looking to learn how to adjust the commercial reeds that you buy? Already know how to make reeds but want to refine your reed skills? Or, want to join a group of fun people to simply focus on reed making for a week and stockpile some great reeds for the summer and fall?

If so,  here's your opportunity! I'll be leading an 

Oboe Reedmaker's Bootcamp
June 24-28th 2013
 Eau Claire, WI

We'll be working on tying fundamentals, knife technique, understanding the parts of the reed, troubleshooting guidance for reed refining and adjustment, and everything else under the sun that pertains to reed making. The sessions will be half-day,  leaving you time to take an optional oboe lesson, practice your oboe, possibly play in ad hoc chamber groups, and to explore the lovely Eau Claire area (float down the Chippewa River on a raft, enjoy an outdoor concert, miles of bike/running/skating trails, fishing, boating, the Eau Claire Downtown Farmer's Market, mild Wisconsin summers, etc, etc!)

I'm here to help you become a better reed maker. Come join us at the reed table for a week of great learning in an informal setting. College students and amateurs are welcome! Since this is a part of OboeForEveryone, there is no cost to participate, but I am suggesting a donation to cover the cost of cane, etc. which will be supplied for beginning reed makers. 

Are you in? Contact me at:

My reed making background:  I've been making reeds for over 20 years, having studied the art of reed making with greats such as James Brody (Oboe Professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder), Elaine Douvas (Oboe Professor at the Juilliard School and the person who taught me how to make the "5-minute reed"), and David Weber (owner of Weber Reeds and co-author of The Reed Maker's Manual) and inspired by the oboe teachings of Marc Lifschey. I have a thorough understanding of WHY reeds work and take the mystery out of reed making for my students to make reeds quickly and consistently.

I look forward to seeing you there,

Dr. G