31. July 2018 · 4 comments · Categories: Ramble

I just read an article about the possibility that certain instruments will disappear from youth orchestras, due to the lack of popularity. They “now risk becoming extinct.” The header reads “Big beasts of the orchestra could become extinct in ago of YouTube, arts chief warns.”

And what, you wonder, are these “big beasts?”

I’d think double bass, tuba, timpani, harp, contra-bassoon … you know, the ones parents regret having their kids study because hauling them around requires a car that can carry them.

Is that what you’d think as well?

But if you then read the article it says this:

The sheer physical size of the instruments, the complications of the reeds, and the expense of lessons has led to these instruments being sidelined”, he explained.

So here is the actual list:

… the days of the oboe, bassoon, french horn and tuba could be numbered, an arts chief has warned, as interest from the younger generations has dwindled to such a low that the instruments now risk becoming extinct.

Okay. Got it. Oboe is a beast. I’ll agree to that! And yes, reeds … the major hassle of the oboe and bassoon. But the headline had made me think the instruments HAD to be large. Gotta love those headline writers!

But honestly, I don’t see instruments becoming “extinct”. Needed desperately, sure. But orchestras will continue to use them unless we start omitting them from compositions. Hm. Beethoven symphonies without the oboe solos. Sure, why not?

In addition, I hardly think YouTube can be blamed for the demise of these instruments should they becoming less popular. But maybe that’s just me. I think it’s a silly excuse.

Okay … nit picking over ‘n out.

I did find it interesting that these instruments are difficult to come by in the UK. My oboe teaching colleagues that I recommend in the Bay Area and I have had to turn down students, we get so many.

Why, you wonder?

I have more than a sneaking suspicion it is still that parents think oboe is that magic “key to college entrance.” That would make sense: the UK probably don’t NEED the “key to college entrance” like our kids need here. I yearn for the day when all my students tell me they are taking oboe because they simply love the sound of the oboe! It could happen. Maybe.


  1. There are 8 oboes (out of 83 students) starting out in my daughters 5th grade band. And yes, At least 1 of them has said he chose it because of college scholarships. My daughter just loved the oboe when she first tried it. She still loves it! Even though band doesn’t officially start till next week she has been “practicing” everyday. And actually she makes a pleasant sound with it. We’ll see how it goes once she actually starts trying to play specific notes etc… But it doesn’t seem that Oboe is going extinct around here. I have enjoyed reading your blog, stumbled acrossed it while researching “oboe”.

  2. Thanks for commenting and welcome! Are you in the states? I’m guessing so.

    I hope your daughter enjoys her oboe adventures. A private teacher is essential: between errors in books and the reed issue it’s quite important!

    And EIGHT oboes? That will prove to be quite interesting, I’m sure. When starting in a band students move to key signatures quickly that will require left F — this is the reason I insist my students get oboes with that key immediately. (I started without it and it took eons to conquer the habit of forked F that I learned … and because of the fingering chart provided I even learned forked F incorrectly!)

  3. Thanks for the tips. We are in the farm fields of Illinois. (But I lived in San Jose when I was in Jr High School :))

    I doubt there will still be 8 oboes next year. Probably not even by Christmas. But 3 or 4 of the group looked like they are up to the hard work and perseverance involved. If she stays with it this school year we are planning to buy her her own oboe, and look into lessons. We live in a smallish area, but have a university nearby with a good music program so we are hoping there will be oboe teachers around somewhere. My husband is slightly acquainted with a professional oboeist/oboe dealer a few hours away from us. So they may be able to give us some connections. This music stuff is all new to us. I’m just hoping it brings her joy and she learns to work hard. It seems like she might have a knack for it.

  4. So you lived in San Jose? Small world!

    Yes, if your daughter finds joy Inc music making that’s just the best!