Some time ago someone wrote to me for oboe advice. I have, in fact, received several emails recently for either oboe advice of advice of some other musical sort. Needless to say, I sometimes have to be quite careful in what I write.

And then I sometimes get emails from other oboists. An oboist while back, accused me of stealing students (not the accuser’s students, as that person lives out of this state, so I’m not sure where the person was getting information or who I supposably stole students from, but oh well). I have never stolen a student. Ever. I don’t recruit at all, truth be told. I have had just a few students come from other teachers. If I’m told they want to switch teachers I tell them they must first inform that teacher: the oboe world is small and I don’t want anyone to be angry about my “stealing” students. At the same time, students do have the right to switch teachers. Shoot, there are times when I think some of mine should move to someone else — it can be a good thing to get a different perspective. I know of only one student I’ve had who came from someone else without notifying that teacher. I hadn’t realized they were coming from someone else until after they switched so at that point it was too late. But really, I don’t attempt to take students from another oboe teacher.

That being said, there are times I wish I could. There are some oboe instructors out there who should probably not be teaching. Some years ago I started working with a student who was writing the names of notes over every single note with the teacher’s approval. In addition, the fingering for forked F was incorrect and left F simply didn’t exist. Those habits are difficult to break and I do get a bit angry at the teacher when I have to retrain someone so completely. It’s awfully frustrating for the student, too.

But I ramble. What I mostly want to do is urge parents to make sure their child’s oboe instructor knows what he or she is doing. Get recommendations from a youth symphony or university. Ask other oboists and parents who they recommend. If the teacher isn’t playing anywhere at all on oboe, you might question if the teacher really knows oboe. Not every oboe teacher plays, but most do: I make a point of playing duets with my students each week so they know what an oboe should sound like. I think that’s a good idea, and I think the students enjoy it. (They especially enjoy it when I make a mistake!)

Be wise. Listen for improvement. Don’t assume an oboe instructor is good just because he or she advertises that they are. And the words “academy”, “institute” or “master” are meaningless if they aren’t backed up by good teaching.

Ramble over ‘n out.

2 Comments

  1. While it might be for our relatively small experience, I should say that so far all the oboe teachers we met, as well as all youth orchestra conductors who worked with our kids had NEVER exhibited even a hint of jealousy. In fact, they were all so supportive of the change that I could have never imagined.

    For example, my son’s oboe teacher, Amy Kahn, was extremely open with him. I think he was in the 8th grade, when she told him “at some point you will grow and will have to find another teacher”. She was the one, who introduced him to Tom (his current teacher), who normally doesn’t work with school kids and personally asked him to give Daniel some lessons. She then would give my son certain assignments, saying “you will need these so that you could move on to study with Tom” and she was the first one to congratulate him when Tom finally agreed to take him on.

    Every time he was moving to a new youth orchestra, his conductors were super-supportive and congratulating him as well.

    We discussed it with my son a number of times and I am sure these lessons will stay with him forever.

  2. I think most teachers are like that, Vladimir. It was just that I managed to encounter someone who wasn’t … and I was rather shocked. (The hate mail I received actually had me shaking, I was so upset.) I’m glad, too, that his conductors have been so supportive! I look forward to seeing just how far this fine player goes!