Oboecopia: Horn of Plenty

Some would say this horn we play, the oboe, is a horn of plenty. It’s plenty of trouble! I tend to be an optimist, however, and like to take stock of the cornucopia of rewards playing the oboe brings us; the fruits of our labor, if you will.

Here’s my OBOECOPIA list (or perhaps, coranglaiscopia?):

Things All Oboe Players Can Be Grateful For

Bringing People Together

The soulful sound of the oboe serves as a call to come together. We intone the tuning note, bringing musicians into harmony with each other. Hearing the tuning note announces to an audience that a unique shared musical journey is beginning. The world may seem divisive, but music powerfully brings us together.


We are fortunate to have the camaraderie of fellow musicians. Playing in an ensemble of any sort– orchestra, wind quintet, double reed ensemble—is a social experience like no other. Enjoying each other’s musicianship, challenging each other, and sharing the rewards of music making—it may not be the glamorous life, but it is a rich and fulfilling one.

The Inner Journey

Pursuing excellence as a musician requires discipline, persistence and honesty. Evolving as performers often means evolving as human beings. Opening ourselves to the raw emotions of music changes our worldview as well. Bach, Beethoven, Messiaen, the Beatles, Coltrane, Sondheim: music lets us see the world through another’s eyes and enriches human experience.

Developing Coping Mechanisms

So much about oboe playing seems out of our control: getting water in the octave keys, the finicky nature of the key work, the effects of the weather, and of course, all aspects of reed making—from knife sharpening to the quality of the cane. However, learning to deal with so much unpredictability on a regular basis makes us stronger. The coping mechanisms oboists develop in response to these things vary—patience, determination, a sense of humor. But these qualities can also serve us well in life, since they can be applied to so many things that test us: personal relationships, child rearing, faculty meetings, orchestra negotiations, etc.


A big “thank you” to all families that support the crazy musical life of double reed players. Parents, spouses, children—you put up with endless repetitions of melodies, multicolored reed threads on chairs, attending concerts you may or may not be interested in, reed shavings on the floor, our emotional mood swings as the big concert day comes closer, our absence when we’re on tour. Unlike Christmas or July 4th, Thanksgiving is rarely celebrated with live symphonic music, so oboists should take advantage of the opportunity to share a meal with family and tell them you love them, and appreciate all they do for you.

And here’s a more personal list of things the oboe has brought to my life that I am grateful for, beginning with:


You like my website, you read my blogs. You’ve thanked me for writing Oboemotions: What Every Oboe Player Needs to Know about the Body and The Breathing Book. You’ve “liked” and “shared” my performance videos and teaching videos. I’m grateful to you teachers who require your students to read my books. I’m thankful for you who invite me to give master classes, and for your students who play for me and are willing to be vulnerable in front of an audience. And I’m always grateful (and relieved!) to hear your applause after a performance.

Composer Colleagues

I relish the opportunity to work with contemporary composers to bring new music for oboe and English horn to life. Recently I premiered and recorded a new work about mermaids for oboe, viola and harp by my talented colleague, Dr. Cynthia Wong. I had the chance to revisit a favorite oboe quintet in an 80thbirthday celebration for composer Virko Baley. I’ll be working soon with Michael Torke to perform his concerto for oboe. And I was so honored to record a new arrangement for winds of Jean Francaix’s masterwork, L’Horloge de Flore. Ken Watson’s lovely instrumentation has been garnering many excellent reviews.


Sharing the joys of music with students is a passion. It’s also the gift that keeps giving. It’s cliché, but true, that you learn as much from your students as they learn from you.


For my Dad, wife and daughters, see Family above!


Is there anything you would add to my OBOECOPIA list? What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?