I’m sorry my blog posting has been so erratic lately, but graduate school has kept me extremely busy lately. The good thing about being in school all the time is that I am constantly getting new ideas that help my playing. So here are a couple of tips for oboist who are perhaps somewhat new to oboe playing, and especially for doublers who might find the breathing and air support required for oboe to be so different from their other instruments.

First tip: Think about blowing the air across the oboe instead of down into it. Don’t ask me why this works. It just does. Somehow doing this helped my tone, and helped my control, especially pitch control. Try it and let me know how it works for you.Paragraph text…

Second Tip: Oboe requires more abdominal work than your other woodwinds. It just does. Get over it. Resolve that every time you put the oboe reed in your mouth, it’s going to be hard work. Do this and you will sound better, have a bigger dynamic range, more control, and generally be a happier person.

Last Tip: Your lips don’t have to be rolled in as much as you think. Quit fighting it. Instead think of the syllable “toh.” It will bring your lips forward. Also consider the open, relaxed throat position you get from this syllable. Try to keep it at all times. This might make you out of tune at first, especially if you’ve been using a high tongue and/or pinched throat to control pitch. But if you keep the increased abdominal support from tip 2, this problem goes away.

I’ve gotta run to bassoon reed class. Happy Thursday, and happy oboeing to everyone.

I’m pleased to announce that I’m one of four winners in the annual William T. Gower Concerto Competition at my school, the University of Southern Mississippi.  This means I’ll be performing as a featured soloist with the school’s premier wind band, the Wind Ensemble at a concert some time next Spring.  My piece is an alto saxophone feature, Erwin Schulhoff‘s Hot Sonata, which is a really fun, exciting piece, full of energy and interesting, quirky dissonance.  

This piece was originally for alto saxophone and piano, but this arrangement, by Richard Rodney Bennett, is for a “chamber ensemble” – about 15 wind players, string bass and a drum set.  It’s a great arrangement, very colorful, with lots of mutes and woodwind doubling.  Here’s a fine YouTube of an ASU student ensemble performance – just the first movement, but the others are available as well.

Let me shout out a big “Thank You!” To the many Community Colleges and universities that allowed me to come perform over the last several months. This piece was part of that program, and I know that those repeated performances really helped me finalize my interpretation of this piece.

Let me just say in closing that I could not possibly have done well in this competition without the fantastic piano playing of Dr. Lois Leventhal, who very generously agreed to play with me.  The piano part is fiendishly difficult, and I am in complete and total amazement every time she plays this piece.  Thank you Dr. Leventhal!

Update: Unfortunately, I cannot show you my performance with the university’s chamber band, because the band director required me to cut one entire movement from this piece in order to perform it on the Competition Winners concert. Out of respect for the composer and the meaning of the piece (each movement is a distinct, unique statement) I proposed that we instead make some judicious cuts from some of the more repetitive material in the first, third and fourth movements. This actually made the piece more concise, but importantly, did not sacrifice any of the unique statements made in the piece. I was actually proposing we cut more time from the program than the length of the entire 2nd movement, but alas, my proposal was not accepted (in spite of the fact that the conductor was willing to make these cuts, and agreed with me that they were very practical, and in some ways improved the piece) so I did not perform the piece in concert with the band.