A week of Oboe…

Returned to college again.. and I liked it!  Last week, I went to an intensive week-long oboe camp at Youngstown State.  YSU is a great little university, featuring the Dana School of Music which does offer a BA in Oboe Performance.  It started out with checking into our Dorm rooms and a group dinner, followed by my first ever “audition” playing for five people, for which Chamber Group I would be placed in.  I played a short etude and not flawlessly.  Fortunately, there were other adult women there, and the three of us made our own group.

The core days were Monday through Thursday, with our recital on Friday morning.  Basically, it was playing oboe from about 9am til 10pm every day. And I really loved this.  We began the day at 9:30 with master classes and other instructional items, including oboe

Photo Jun 24, 8 59 48 AM

with Petrea

care and maintenance, body-mapping, and a touch of Alexander technique.  We also had short private lessons in the morning sessions, and I got to work with Petrea Warneck, who introduced me to vibrato, and also Lisa Sayre, the Camp’s director.  On Thursday morning, I participated in my first master class, playing another etude, and got through it not too badly – in fact, Dr. Mark Ostoich (Dr. O) was pleasantly surprised that I completed the piece without any stops and starts.  Which, at not even four months playing, was nice!

At 11:45 each day, we gathered for Group Chamber practice, playing Dvorak, “Over the Rainbow,” and the theme from “Harry Potter,” for which I played 3rd oboe parts.  And no, I really couldn’t keep up, but I muddled my way through.  Twenty oboes and english horns playing their parts, like herding cats for our poor conductor, Doug!  But as the week moved along, we got better and better, and it all came together for our recital on Friday

Afternoons after lunch were spent making reeds.  On Tuesday, Scott Bell, Second Oboist for the Pittsburgh Symphony, joined us for the day and gave a wonderfully informative demonstration on how to scrape a reed.  I practiced reed tying, and on Wednesday made my first “functional” reed – while not pretty, it did make noise!  I learned how to sharpen my knives, and the importance of reed placement reference tube shape (oval), proper overlap, and where to “cross over.”  As I joked through the week, one down, only 9,999 to go before I’m an expert!

After dinner each evening, we had Chamber practice from 7-9pm.  Throughout the week, I’ve never had so much music thrown at me, which was most evident the first two nights of figuring out what we were going to play for our Chamber recital; Mozart, Haydn, Bach…  We finally settled on “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” arranged for oboe by Lisa’s husband, Charles Sayre.  Then thereafter, I would typically practice till 10pm – on Wednesday evening, I got about 50 minutes of private instruction from Dr. O, which was

Photo Jun 24, 9 16 25 AM

with Dr. O

great… “love my metronome, love my metronome, lol…

We did get a fair amount of personal time during the days, for lunch dinner, and before Chamber.  Most times, I got out the oboe and practiced my Chamber piece, and on Wednesday, the piece I played at master class.  One afternoon, I took the oboe outside to a courtyard by a water fountain and just played stuff, working on a little long-note piece.  It was beautiful outside, not too hot, and so peaceful listening to the water of the fountain and playing, very inspirational.

Sadly, Friday arrived and it was time to be heading home.  We gathered our belongings and checked out of the dorms, and made our way to Bliss Recital Hall for our performance.  Our Chamber Group played fourth and had lots of help from the instructors, and following the individual groups, we had the Camp performance.  And then it was time for the road.

The week was a wonderful experience, and I feel that it really jump-started my playing, and practice.  One piece of feedback I received from everyone is how good my embouchure is, which given the troubles I was having, was great to hear.  I’m now focused on returning next year, and hopefully in a much different place in my abilities.

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