Saturday, March 26, 2011

Me and My Oboe

It is very hard to put into words what playing the oboe means to me.  For one thing, I am not as involved with music as I was at one time.  My major at Western in Bellingham was music, so during those years I spent many hours every day both studying and playing music.  Since then, I have gone on to do many things, including teaching music at Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta, Canada.

During the PBI years, I met and married my husband - a fine clarinet player.  :-)  We spent many years in Chile, South America as missionaries.  Our only daughter was born there and thinks that she is a Chilena. 

Music was always an important part of our ministry, but we did not have time to devote ourselves to music per se.

After we returned to the US, I returned to teaching music for several years.  Our travel schedule at this time does not allow me to teach.  What I have been able to do is return to actually spending time playing my oboe.  About 3 years ago I was able to purchase a new oboe.   The one I had served me well, but it has a couple of cracks in the upper joint.  It is over 40 years old, now.  

I began to look at new oboes to buy, wanting one that at least had a plastic upper joint. I did not want to suffer the disappointment of a cracked oboe again.  I looked at Yamaha's instruments, which are very nice.  Then, since they come highly recommended at least here in the US, I decided to try out a Fox oboe.

I fell in love with the Fox.  It plays  freely, which I need.  I suffer from asthma, which makes blowing hard at times.  Growing up with smokers, and then the years of living in some pretty polluted air took its toll on my lungs.  The sound is beautiful.  I lose some of the projection of sound that my old oboe had, but at this time, the playing I do is in church with my husband and in a local orchestra which is pretty small.  I get lots of complements on how beautiful my playing sounds, so I guess that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. 

Also, I hope to take it with me in Nov. when my husband and I, along with a larger team, go into Cuba for conferences.  We would like to play some music.  I have been able to help some of the Cuban church musicians that we know with their supply needs.  Every time I go to Cuba on a mission trip, I take reeds for the sax and clarinet players, drum sticks for the drummers, and strings for the guitarists.  I have also been able to provide a trumpet mouthpiece for one guy, and other repair items for the woodwinds.

My oboe is a Fox 300.  The tropical climate may be a bit hard on it, but I know that the climate changes will not crack it. 

So, even though music is still more of a sideline in my life now, it is still an important part of my life and ministry.  God is good!

As far as reed making goes, I pretty much gave up altogether.  I am able to get decent reeds at a low price.  Even so, I have a bunch of reeds wrapped and ready to carve on, so maybe I'll go back to making my own reeds - and maybe not.

One fun thing that I got to do this year so far was send a back pack full of oboe supplies and music to a young player in Honduras.  I met him through Face Book.  It just so happened, in God's providence, that my husband and the new Latin America director of our mission were heading for Honduras to visit our workers there. They would go through the city where this young guy lives. 

Since I am not teaching anymore, and since I am not studying oboe anymore either, I had a lot of books and materials just sitting around the condo not being used.  I remember how it was being a young player and having a hard time finding music and materials. I had a good teacher, but everything had to be ordered from somewhere far away and was all pretty expensive.

 So, I was able to pass on my blessing of ample supplies and music to another oboist just starting out.  Isn't God good that way?  I am still amazed at how that worked out.


RobinDesHautbois said...

Oboe and clarinet.... Hmm I guess this invalidates a lot of mutual animosity :-) SO YOU'RE THE REASON my blog gets hits from Chile! Keep it up, the instrument, be it classical or otherwise is worth being spread. I truly believe music (all of it) is God's language that humans are capable of perceiving. Let's be honest, sometimes God has rough things to say: hence the more discordant and unpleasant music.

I am THRILLED to read that someone can make her oboistic life with "store-bought" reeds. This really strikes a blow against those who cry about the difficulty of reed making.

Mrs. Webfoot said...

Hey, Robin,
Nice to see you here. Mutual animosity? Remember, we're married. :-) We try to make beautiful music together.

Thank you for your encouragement. The oboe is something that I always return to. I can't really play the things I played when I was young and foolish, but I can do justice to a beautiful melody.

I agree with you about God and music. The message of music communicates to us at a deep level. It is one of God's most gracious gifts to mankind.

Well, I was never that great at making reeds, but I was able at one time to keep myself going reed wise. I like your engineer's approach to the subject. Making a good reed is as much science as it is art. The dimensions have to be right in order for it to sound right.

I have become very lazy. If I were playing more, I'd have to get off my duff and just spend the time it takes to make my own reeds.

One funny thing is that I used to have to work really hard at tonguing fast passages. Since I have become fluent in Spanish, I find tonguing on my oboe to be pretty easy. I could keep up with the violins no problem on the Messiah pieces. I can tongue as fast as they can bow, at least for Messiah. So, that's weird.

RobinDesHautbois said...

Thanks for the welcome and nice to be here. Jeez, don't be shy about using purchased reeds, unless you miss making them!

God Bless you and yours too!

Mrs. Webfoot said...

Thanks, Robin. :-) I miss making a good reed now and then, but I don't miss all the time and effort that goes into it. I'd rather spend that time actually playing my oboe!

Take care.