Why a Music Degree

Recently, I was told by a friend – no doubt with good intentions – that going to college for a music degree would be a waste of money and that I could learn what I need by other means.  This stuck me, kind of like when an ex-partner said that I should have a practical reason to study something or not bother.  I’ve always believed in the idea of study for study’s sake, and that one can never learn enough.  One should never stop learning.

Sure, I could think of other more practical areas to study, such as nursing, which may or may not be beneficial to me.  But at this stage of my life, I would like to study something that I am passionate about and have a vested personal interest in.  At 54, I’m not very much interested in all things practical.

In my formative years, I wen to Manhattanville College for two years as a Pre-Med Chemistry major, until I decided to hook up and get married.  In the late 80’s, I had the distinction of being accepted by and attending Columbia University which, when I was laid off from my investment banking job two weeks before Christmas, proved sadly short-lived.  I loved Columbia, and I thrived there as an adult student.  Columbia introduced me to classical music’s great composers and works, the great artists, and Mayan culture. Also, while working in Manhattan, I had taken up the violin, studying with a member of the New York Phil in her flat in Greenwich Village.  That sadly ended as well.  That was the first time I was serious about learning an instrument.

Later still in life, I attended SUNY’s Empire State College for adults as a Psychology major, and then another college, this time Theology, but in both instances, major life changes ensued and again ended my studies.

Which brings us to today.  I am 54 years old and I do not have a college degree.  I thought that really didn’t matter to me, but I was wrong.  It is something that I want to, need to, do…. to finish.  And since my passion is music – its always connected the dots throughout my life – what better subject to study.  I want to study music performance so that, after graduating, I might be able to perform my music in sacred spaces for others; for times of joy and for times of sorrow.  And the only means by which I foresee my musicality taking flight is through total immersion which, invested in a full-time college program, I will receive.  It is a personal challenge that I hope beyond anything to be able to accept.

More Music…

Today, I received an email containing two pieces that I need to prepare for Oboe Camp I’m attending at Wright State in July.  One is Study No. 11, which can be found in “48 Studies for Oboe, Op.31,” by Franz Wilhelm Ferling.  The second is an Solo Excerpt from a Violin Concerto composed by Johannes Brahms.  I honestly wouldn’t have thought a year ago that I’d be playing pieces of music written by the likes of Brahms, Dvorak, or Copeland.  It’s pretty cool actually, and I am truly finding happiness in my instrumental progression.  I’ve got a long way to go, but I think I’m making some good progress.

Where I started off in Rubank’s Elementary Method, I’m now using “40 Rhythmical Studies” by Grover Yaus, and have started greater work in Albert Andraud’s “Practical and Progressive Oboe Method.”  Rhythm still continues to be my weakness, and frankly I hate the metronome and hence do not work with it as I should be doing.  I also need to work technically and increase the speed with which I play passages, especially eighth notes… so a continual work in progress as it goes.  But.. it’s been a year about about three months since I first picked up an oboe.

Inn other music notes, I am also working on Arcangelo Corelli’s “Sarabande,” while searching for a counterpoint piece to play for my audition in the fall.  That and my scale work, today being Ab Major…. yes, four flats… fun.  So it’s not that I am suffering for things to play.

Hoping for College

For me, the next step is college.  Or at least I am hoping and praying that everything works out that I might be able to attend.  My vision is to be back at university full-time, on campus, studying music and playing at least three hours daily, without distraction and totally absorbed in my studies.  It is a dream I have.  And, at 54, a bit of a challenge.

So, I have begun to move things in that direction.  Recently I’ve applied to two colleges in Ohio, after carefully reviewing many schools both in and out of state.  I’ve decided to stay in Ohio mostly to take advantage of the resident tuition rates, but also because there are some quality instrumental programs in-state. What I considered were the music schools, their programs, campus, and especially the instructors.  Experience and learning was especially important to me.  Also in the mix were tuition rates and, my ability to be accepted into a particular program.  Being a realist, I had no doubts of my chances being non-existent at getting into CCM for example.

I came up with three colleges of choice, and had originally intended to apply to all three, but chose to apply to only two of them.  I may consider the third, but one seems to be evolving as the place I will land.  My original first choice unfortunately is constrained by studio size, and cannot guarantee me a spot in their oboe studio in January.  Based upon meeting with the second college, it has now become my first choice, and I love everything about the school. from its professor to its program to the studios.  I can foresee myself virtually living in the music building for the next three years!  And loving it!  I also have close friends in the area, and we can continue to play ensemble together.

I’m now in the process of gathering my transcripts and other information, and then will be awaiting decisions, well really one decision.  I should have about 50 credits to transfer and satisfy all my core requirements and electives. Then the most important next step will be financial aid.  There remains for me many things that need to come together to make this all work.  I am hoping to live on-campus in adult housing, and therefore gain the total experience of attending college once again, and because of the immersion, I wholeheartedly believe that my oboe playing will thrive.

My Reed-making Space

I live in a small studio, so I can’t have a typical practice area-reeds area space.  To partially solve this, what I did was to go to the local Walmart and purchase a small folding table and chair.  It is

more than sufficient to be home for all of my essential reed-making tools while out of the tackle box, has room enough for my magnifying lamp, and also provides me a view of the outdoors!  You can see my Reeds’nStuff double-hollow knife, Howarth reed case, and my Ando knife and burnishing rod sheathed.

Currently, my reed-making level is to purchase shaped cane from dealers and go from Photo Apr 14, 2 02 31 PMthere; tie my own reeds and shape, shape, shape!  I’m working with Mack-Pfeiffer shaped  cane at the moment, as I’m experimenting with no.3 staples.  The Mack-Pfeiffer is a wider shape versus the Rigotti that I was using previously, and ties better to the tube. Our local CCM teacher Dr. Mark Ostoich, developed a special no.3 staple – the Ostoich staple –  in conjunction with Chiarugi and Double or Nothing Reeds.

All of which is a heck of alot more than I could do a few months ago ~ I’ve managed to be able to get the reed to peep, and then I work on them with my teacher.  Eventually, I plan on getting a shaper tip and handle and go to the next logical level of making them.  I am uncertain if I will ever get to making reeds from purely raw cane… but who knows.  On the opposite side of thinking, Legere could come out with an amazing American scrape synthetic reed, and I’ll never have to make another reed!  Below are my two main knives, the Reeds’nStuff DHG Herder knife and the Ando chisel knife:

Photo Apr 16, 5 42 32 PM

I use the Ando knife for most of the reed “body” and heavy-duty work, and the Herder knife for finessing the tip of the reed.  Biggest problem for me right now?  SHARP KNIVES!


Oboe Camp 2017

After mulling over study opportunities this summer, including being accepted as a volunteer for IDRS 2017 and considering going back to YSU for the Oboe Week, I’ve decided to attend the 2017 Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon Camp.  Organized by Double or Nothing Reeds, it will be held for a week in July at Wright State University.  Dr. Melissa Feilhauer, part of Double or Nothing, was my first Oboe teacher, so that will make it more fun!  I’m also particularly interested in the prospect of attending Wight State’s School of Music, and their Oboe teacher will be participating in the Camp.  I’m going to be a day camper, so no boarding of my kiddies and extra expenses, which actually was prohibitive for me to attend IDRS.  It should be lots of fun!  I’ll be sure to post a review of the Camp as the days unfold.

Last year, I attended a week-long in-resident camp at Youngstown State University called the Midwest Oboe Camp.  It was an amazing experience, playing all day long, most days until 10pm, working with others for the first time in a chamber group, and getting personal instruction from Dr. Mark Ostoich of Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music.  I think it’s good practice to see others perform and work with other teachers, so I’m happy with my change in camps this year.

The Next Big Move

What do I really want for myself right now?  More than anything, I would love to finish my college degree that I started over thirty years ago.  And, also more than anything, I would love to receive a Bachelor’s in Instrumental Performance.  Not because I have any wild expectation of joining a symphony – well, I’d like to play in a Community one – but simply because it means a lot to me.  It’s what I want to do for myself at this point in my life.

But there are many hurdles, the primary one being financial.  In order to be successful, I’d like to be able to start back full-time, to be able to take advantage of all the chamber groups and other performances that would be available and also required.  To be able to practice in a distraction-free environment daily, to be able to make reeds successfully and more expeditiously.  To be back on a campus and really enjoying college life and getting everything out of it that I can.  This is what I most desire.  But how to make it happen.  That is where I am presently stuck.

Along with being stuck in trying to problem-solve this issue, is the negative effect it has in trying to remain positive about all of it.  And that seriously impacts my practicing and reed-making, and other things associated with playing and learning.  It’s something that I really cannot seem to figure out right now, which makes me a bit anxious as well.  I would love to just be able to enroll at either NKU or YSU in their Music Program, attend full-time, and devote all of myself to my music.  And I think – know – I would do great if given the opportunity.  Yes, I’m  54, but so what… I can do this… just need the ability to.  Comments, suggestions?  Scholarships or grants?

Dayton New Horizons Band

Me warming up this past Thursday before practice with the Dayton New Horizons Band.  Sadly, my first season will be ending on April 29th, our Concert Day.

This past week, five of us began a new journey of playing as a Double-Reed Chamber group; three Oboes, English Horn, and Bassoon.  This is my first real experience in playing with a small group; while I did at YSU’s Oboe Week last year, it’s a bit of a different environment in our Band, getting together after practice.  Hopefully, we’ll continue playing together beyond the end of the Band season.