(Did I really skip a day of blogging yesterday? Hmmm. I don’t remember not posting, but then again, I don’t remember posting either. Go figure!)

There are certain issues with teaching oboe that other instrumentalists don’t have to deal with. At the top of the list, of course, are reeds. Only bassoonists, and our friends in the single reed world have to contend with the reed dilemma. it’s an issue some have easily resolved. I haven’t.

I play my students reeds at times to diagnose problems. (I know, I know, you are all going “EWWWW” now.) I try to avoid playing on them if I’m able, but I sometimes just have to. Sometimes it’s the only way to see if the problem is the student, the oboe, or the reed. When students purchase reeds from reed makers, my assumption is that those craftspeople play those reeds—or at least “crow” them—to see how they are working. Some say they “disinfect” the reeds before shipping them off, but I’ve been told by one microbiologist that many of our methods are pretty useless.

When I told a doctor recently that I thought a Hep B shot might be worthwhile because I teach oboe, play students reeds, and deal with a lot of college students (who, ahem, aren’t always careful about certain things) he looked at me with horror.

But what’s a oboist to do?

So many of us toot on students’ reeds. And that’s just the way it goes.

Recently, due to a family member dealing with chemo, getting sick has not been something I wanted to contend with. (Heh. Is it ever?) I have started a new practice with my students; they come in the door and immediately go wash their hands. (I’ve even thought about having some sort of hand cleaner in my studio. I still might go there eventually.) They should tell me immediately if they have a cold or feel ill. If I can avoid getting sick, I really want to. (Duh.)

But reeds? I’ve really tried to not play on them, but sometimes I just can’t figure out what else to do. And of course even if I don’t play them I touch them, carve them, stick my plaque in them … so I could be getting little bugs in all sorts of ways.

Yesterday the only student who came to a lesson (so many cancellations these days) walked in and warned me of her headache. She looked pale, but she said she thought she was just tired. So she began to play. Every time that reed went in her mouth and she began to blow I thought, “Please don’t throw up!” She just had “that look.” After a few scales, I said, “Let’s stop.” She just looked too uncomfortable. Mom came a bit later (the poor student had to wait as mom is a carpool driver and was taking other kiddos home) and took her daughter out to the car. Said daughter threw up before reaching her car. This was certainly no one’s fault; sickness happens, and sometimes it happens quickly. I’m just glad I had her stop playing when I did. And while I did touch her reed, I didn’t play on it.

I think I’ll get a flu shot this year.


  1. My prof plays our reeds too, because like you say–it’s necessary to figure out what needs to be fixed.

    Members of the studio also play eachother’s reeds, though, too–different opinions are useful, and some people are better at reedmaking than others.

    The downside of this is that we catch the “studio plague” when someone is sick…although, cooped up in a little room as we so often are, it would be difficult to avoid regardless.

  2. I would think you would ALL be wise to get flu vaccines! (Heh … I almost typed “flute vaccine” and that might be wise too! 😉

    And I do hope you’ve all had the Hep A/B shots?

    I do have one friend who diagnoses everything via the crow. She insists it works fine for her. I just don’t know how that can work.