Memory – Why I chose to play the Oboe

thoboI just got back from a wonderful evening of rehearsal for my community band.  We’re damn good and I’m not biased.

I was thinking back to my early days even before I joined band in middle school.   I was very young and I had an idea where my friends and I put together a little band.  I was going to take some bamboo out of the yard and make a flute.   Never did that but it was still a great idea.  I never mentioned it to anyone.  It was my secret idea.

It was just the month before my first year of middle school and my friends asked me if I was going to join the band.  I didn’t even know there was such a thing so I just went along with them.   The school had the cafeteria set up for us to try out the different mouthpieces to see if we liked them and had any aptitude for each instrument.  I saw the oboe reed and immediately know it was special.  Vincent chose to play the trumpet and Gregory chose the Saxophone.

When school started we had our first rehearsals.  You know that had to have sounded horrific.  I found that I was the only person to chose the oboe and I didn’t know at the time that I chose wisely.  There are many benefits of playing the oboe as well as disadvantages.

Benefits:

  1. You’re almost always first chair.
  2. No chair tests.
  3. You’re always in demand.
  4. Nobody will piss you off because you’re it.
  5. Plenty of solos.

Disadvantanges:

  1. It’s hell to play.
  2. You will always be fighting with the reed.
  3. It’s expensive.  You probably won’t own one while in school but the school will provide it for you.  Used.

I played throughout middle school and high school but didn’t do it in college.  I had enough by then.  It wasn’t until around 15 years later that I joined a community marching band.  You don’t march with the oboe so during I school I took up the flute for marching season.  In the community marching band I played the piccolo and was fortunate to play the oboe for sit-down concerts like Christmas.

I had picked up an oboe on ebay at a great price a few years earlier and had it re-padded.  I had been playing along with midi files on the computer and was excited to actually play in a band again.  Eventually I got tired of marching.  I’m to old for that and it’s damn hot in San Antonio so I took a Leave of Absence right after a disappointing Christmas concert.

I got the word of a new community concert band starting up and went to their first concert just a few days later.  They had only been practicing for a couple of months for this concert but they were damn good and I was impressed.  I joined immediately and never looked back.  They were VERY happy to have an oboe player.  (See!)

I’ve been with the band since, well, a lot of years and we continually get better.   The band is composed of a good quantity of local high school band directors as well as amateur and professional players.  Enough of them are serious enough that we have got to be one of the best community bands in the U.S.

As I mentioned earlier, fighting with the reed is always an issue.  Every once in a while you find the One Reed.  I don’t make my own reeds from scratch like real professionals do.  First, I’m not a professional. Second, I don’t really have the experience with it.  I usually buy one from the local store and modify it as needed.  Sometimes they tun out pretty good.

My current reed is one I bought of the internet from a professional reed maker.  I still had to modify it a little to my liking but so far I am very happy with it.  I think I will give up the store-bought reeds.  I just ordered a new synthetic reed from Legere.  It is not your old-timey $8.00 plastic reed for newbies.  It cost me $169.00.  The reviews from the pros are very good and I am looking forward to using it.  It may really push me forward a big step if I can concentrate on technique and not battle the reed all the time.

So there you go.  My musical history in a few paragraphs.  Do I recommend the oboe for kids starting middle school? Maybe.  It’s not for regular people.  Regular people play the trumpet and saxophone. However if you’re special like me, it can be just the right match.

Good luck!

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