17. October 2015 · Comments Off on Some Challenges of Teaching · Categories: Teaching

I don’t often write about my own teaching experiences here. I definitely don’t write naming any names, and I attempt to keep things as anonymous as possible. I’ve seen teachers write publicly either on a website or, more frequently, on Facebook, and I think it’s wrong to do that, just as I don’t like seeing students write negatively about a teacher. I do, however, have no problem about writing about the issues I and other teachers have faced. They are rather universal so one doesn’t have to point out a certain student or parent to write about them.

Here are just a few issues I’ve had:

The Rude Response
Sometimes I say something and a student comes back with a rather rude response. I honestly don’t think all of them even know they are being rude. Sometimes it’s just lack of savvy to that sort of thing. Sometimes it’s how they behave at home. Sometimes, and I suspect this is most common, it’s a way of covering up fear, insecurity and/or mistakes. I won’t tolerate rudeness, and I call them on that. If they are questioning me in a way that is rude I explain that to them, and I hope I give them ideas about how to ask questions without coming across in a rude manner. Questions are great. Rude questioning is not.

The Lying Response
Students who lie about practicing (and yes, I’ve written before about that) will, in all likelihood, be found out. My response to a, “Yes, I practiced that every day!” when something has clearly barely been looked at is, as I’ve mentioned before, an, “I’m really sorry to hear that! I was hoping you were going to say you forgot to look at this one because it sounded as if you were sight reading!” I am hopeful that most learn that they may as well come clean at the start. If the piece isn’t good enough they’ll have to repeat it anyway, so admitting it wasn’t worked on saves us all a bit of time and energy.

The Questioning Response
Yes, I said I like questions. I really do! What I don’t like is when I tell a student how something should go, or point out a mistake and they look at me as if I haven’t a clue and say, “REALLY?” I’m sorry to say my sarcasm often clicks in at that point and I have to admit I sometimes even say, “No, I was just lying to you.” Mostly I say, “Yes, really. Why would I tell you something that’s not true?” I also get the, “Well, my BAND director says …”. That’s a tough one. I don’t care to contradict a band director, but the majority aren’t oboists and they sure give out a lot of bad information! Recently a few youth orchestra directors have been doing this same thing which was quite new for me to deal with.

The Non-Responder
These are the students who simply ignore the errors I point out or don’t listen to my instructions. When they do that it’s usually a chronic problem. Again, I think sometimes this is about fear or insecurity. If they just don’t hear me, they can ignore the issues. When I get students like this I have them repeat what I have instructed or have them tell me what the mistake was.

I’ve been teaching for a very long time. I know about all of these responses. I deal with them. I hope that I manage, in the end, to get students motivated and excited about oboe. I hope I also encourage them in the long run. Sometimes, though, it’s incredibly difficult to find encouraging words. At the end of those trying lessons, though, I do hope I send the students home with an, “I know this wasn’t as good as it could have been but I have NO DOUBT you can do better!”

All of that being said, I find these challenges to be somewhat invigorating much of the time.

Do note, thought, that I didn’t write “ALL of the time”!

16. October 2015 · Comments Off on MQOD · Categories: Quotes

My father played oboe and when I watched rehearsals I could never see him behind the violin section. So all I knew was that I didn’t want to play oboe because nobody would see me.

—Maxim Vengerov

Read more here.

16. October 2015 · Comments Off on I LOVE This! · Categories: Read Online

… and the last sentence of the portion I’m posting here is priceless! 🙂

There’s a new member in the viola section of the fifth grade orchestra at Winton Woods Intermediate School. Like the other musicians, this is his first time playing a musical instrument. Like the other musicians, he still gets easily confused reading the sheet music and plucking the right notes on his instrument. Unlike the other musicians, Jeremy Day isn’t a fifth grader. He’s the school’s principal.

“A 5th grade class is exactly where I need to be because I literally know nothing about music,” said Day, “so it’s been a nice fit.”

Day was always more of an athlete, playing football and running track in middle and high school, though he admits that he did sing in the school choir. “It irritates me that I hadn’t played an instrument growing up,” he said. “I respect people who can play.”

Winton Woods Orchestra Director Felipe Morales-Torres was quickly on board when Day approached him with the idea. “This district enthusiastically supports the arts,” said Morales-Torres. “Mr. Day’s participation is a perfect example of that. He’s a principal who supports music students so much that he signed up to learn beside them.”

So now, instead of observing the class, as he usually would, Day is part of the class. Alexie Mavridoglou, who sits next to Day in the classroom, said having the principal right there made her nervous at first. She said she got over it pretty quickly once she realized, “I’m better at viola than he is.”


For Santa Rosa Symphony:

… the orchestra hired Jesse Barrett of San Francisco to fill an oboe/English horn vacancy. Barrett resides in San Francisco and plays with the Merced Symphony, the Reno Chamber Orchestra and Symphony Napa Valley.



Minnesota Orchestra:

Joseph Peters (BM, 2009, oboe, student of John Snow) was recently named principal oboist of the Minnesota Orchestra. He is currently principal oboist of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Found here.

Congratulations to both players!

11. October 2015 · Comments Off on Sunday Evening Music · Categories: Sunday Evening Music

Thomas Tallis: If Ye Love Me
The Choir of Somerville College, Oxford; Robert Smith, Conductor

11. October 2015 · Comments Off on Sunday Morning Music · Categories: Sunday Morning Music

Rautavaara: Ektenia of the Litany
Trinity College Choir; Stephen Layton, Conductor

06. October 2015 · Comments Off on “One Note” Concerts · Categories: Ramble

Last week’s concerts were, for me, all about one note.


Yes, I had a lot more than one note to play. Yes, others could be heard (although not well, really, since much of what I played was during tutti passages). But that one note … after sitting for 20 some odd measures of the second movement of the Beethoven fifth Piano Concerto … well … it mattered most. I come in, along with the principal oboist, pianissimo. I’m on a low F#. If it doesn’t speak, if it isn’t just right, my night is ruined.

Yes, that’s pathetic. But that’s how it feels.

So they were “One Note” concerts as far as I was concerned.

I tried numerous reeds. I thought I had decided which made me the most comfortable. I played the note over and over, making sure I would get that right feel, getting the muscle memory, learning to trust myself and the reed.

Then I switched reeds on the first concert night.

Yep, that happens. Reeds are so darn fickle and the one that I thought was the Chosen One just didn’t feel right to me Saturday night. So a different reed came out.

And it worked.

Sometimes it’s all about one note. Concerts like that aren’t fun until that one note has sounded. Go figure.

Now I can say, “Gee, what a fun concert!”

06. October 2015 · Comments Off on Riccardo Muti’s Words … · Categories: Other People's Words, Read Online

HE: I was at an open rehearsal of yours with the Civic Orchestra, and you surprised me by saying that the world is losing its artistic values. How can we regain those artistic values, if our generation is losing them?

RM: First off, the basic element is education—if you teach kids how to move in the world of sounds, to interest them in the world of a symphony. It should be done in such a way that it becomes a pleasure and a discovery, not a punishment. Then, when they become adults, they will feel that they need this spiritual bread. But if you leave them in complete ignorance, you cannot expect that at the age of 20, 25, they will go into a concert hall to hear the [B minor Mass] of Bach or the Missa solemnis of Beethoven. It will be like being in an unknown world.

There is another thing: In the last [several] years, we have become a visual society. So instead of listening to the music, we want to see conductors exercising on the podium, pianists that communicate with God while playing, violinists that try to impress the public with sexy attitudes…All this didn’t exist 30 years ago, 40 years ago. Today, with television and other things, people are interested in what they see. Nobody speaks about the spiritual integrity of these [artists]; what they are conveying to the public.

So something dramatic is happening. And instead of helping the public to become more concentrated on the substance of what art is, we are following them—giving them candies instead of vitamins. The next time you go to a concert and see a conductor who moves more than is necessary, and opens his mouth like a shark, you have to boo.

MC: I’ve been waiting to do that! North American audiences always give standing ovations, no matter what.

RM: Yes. If the concert ends loud, you can be sure of its success. Because the public, when it is not educated, reacts to the physical impact of the sound.

So we please them, and we are ruining the quality of the audience. But this attitude that we still have of musicians in tails—dressed like penguins—and all this ceremony that has been going on for more than one century… This is something that is not helping the music to become [universal]. I want to see the moment in the future—I hope before I disappear from this planet—when [orchestras] do what I’m doing already in rehearsals, which is speaking to both the musicians and the public. That way, the public becomes an essential part of the process.

We have to change the world. Not “we”—you! You are young, after all.


04. October 2015 · Comments Off on Sunday Evening Music · Categories: Sunday Evening Music

Herbert Howells: Te Deum
Trinity College Choir; Stephen Layton, Conductor; Owain Park, Organ

04. October 2015 · Comments Off on Sunday Morning Music · Categories: Sunday Morning Music

Kassia: Ek Rizis Agathis (Greek Orthodox Chant)