04. May 2010 · 7 comments · Categories: Ramble

This was already a day I was sort of fearing; I teach at UCSC on Tuesdays, and I have three students at home after. But today I had to add an opera performance into the mix. That makes for a long day (almost as long as my friend dk, who works longer hours than I can imagine).

So what better thing to do that make it worse, dont’cha think?

I got to UCSC and immediately did something I teach my students not to do at the first oboe lesson. I somehow pressed the trill key on the middle joint (C-D) and crashed together the bridge or links or whatever you want to call them that connect the top and middle joints in order to play that trill. Boy oh boy does that metal bend easily. So carefully — but not carefully enough — I tried to bend the middle joint one back. Um. Never mind; I bent it MUCH further than I intended. I know that if you bend metal enough, it’ll break. Obviously I’d now weakened it a good amount. At that point I tried hard not to panic, carefully and slowly bent it the right way, and tried the oboe. It played, but the trill key wasn’t feeling quite right.

Thankfully I have internet access in my room. I immediately emailed my friend Bob Hubbard of Westwind Double Reed and he said he’d be home all day. (Thank you, thank you, Bob!) So I took it to him to have him look at it. He suggested that I remove that section of key from my other oboe and swap ’em out, OR just remove the key all together and use it that way for now, as I can do without the trill. That sounded reasonable, so I went home feeling a bit relieved.

Of course I got home and was more than a bit of a wreck. So after having lunch (finally … at 2:30 … my first meal of the day!), I took a 10 minute nap. Then I had about 10 minutes to look at the oboes and work on them.

Well, I couldn’t get one of the darn screws to turn! I think one is rather frozen, and I don’t want to strip it. So never mind. BUT I played the “MishapOboe™” some more and thought it would work for La Rondine, since that trill isn’t used at all. In order to feel a bit safer I did bring my other oboe to work as well.

I had three students to teach still. I could use my bad move as a great example to them. Maybe this will keep them from doing what I just did. But then, as I said, I teach all my students about properly putting together an oboe and somehow I blew it today. So who knows?

By the time I arrived at the pit, I was exhausted, frustrated, angry at myself, and a bit worried. And then I saw a conductor I know in the audience — in the front row, no less! (Seeing someone I know in the audience can sometimes make me a bit more nervous that usual.) Let’s just add some more stress, eh? BUT … it all worked. The oboe behaved. (I guess it’s forgiven me for abusing it.) I can now breathe a sigh of relief. The oboe will go to Mark Chudnow at some point (I’ll call and schedule an appointment), but at least I know I can get through this week of work. Whew! You can bet I’m sleeping in tomorrow. As late as this weary body wants.

AND I must say, playing this opera just brings such joy. What lovely, lovely music. It made the stress of the day slowly disappear.

I love my job. (I don’t like doing stupid things like harming oboes, though.)

SO … I guess “An Oboe Mishap Can Really Ruin One’s Day” … but an Opera Can Sometimes Fix That! 🙂


  1. Well, let’s look on the bright side. At least it wasn’t the OTHER side of the oboe. I am sure that you had many “C’s” and “Bb’s” in the opera. And, not to bring out the fiddliness of the oboe, my middle joint trill key is “C-D”. Thank goodness that is doubled on the upper joint.

    About two years ago, my Eng Hn, in the case, fell off of a chair before a rehearsal. The entire lower joint was out of kilter. $400.00 later and a trip to Atlanta, he played perfectly well. Hope it doesn’t cost too much to fix.

  2. Heh … better correct that “typo” (ie, idiot StupidPattyRemark™ about the C#. Sigh. Trills and I aren’t exactly best friends!)

    But YES, I was extremely thankful that I only messed up that side. Whew!

  3. Oh … and “horror tales” … on my way to a show once someone ran a red light in front of me. I hit her, she rolled, my car hit another car. Oboe fell from seat to floor (I now keep my oboe on the floor). The car was totaled. The oboe was unplayable.

    Ah, InstrumentHorrorStories™. So much fun … AFTER the fact!

  4. It’s good to have some basic repair skills handy, also, lubricating the metal is a good habit to get into. I totally take apart my bassoon, clean everything and replace the keys with lots of teflon oil and red axle grease about three times a year. With practice it only takes about four hours- worth it!

  5. Um. I think that might require … well … intelligence, Paul!

    Remember who you are writing to?! Ack! Me not got good smarts. 😉

  6. If it had gotten really dire I would’ve been willing to swap you mine for the day at least :). I don’t have any gigs until the 16th. I don’t know that doing a performance on an unfamiliar instrument is the best way to go, but I imagine you could probably deal with that (you still can’t have any of my reeds though).

  7. Thanks, Tim!

    Yeah, playing on an unfamiliar instrument isn’t a breeze, but it’s better than nothing! Fortunately I do another Marigaux here, but I definitely favor my usual baby.

    I’ll be calling Mark sometime soon to schedule a visit, to be sure.