I believe the learning environment is best navigated with effective, charismatic, and timely communication in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust that might ultimately leads to growth and flourishing. The nature of the teacher-student relationship therefore is critical to success. Integrity and honesty must take a central role, and by this, I mean that as the teacher I should practice what I preach, and students should be honest in assessing their own discipline and commitment.
Growth best occurs in a positive environment: edification over disparagement, empowerment over restriction, curiosity
over indifference, hard work over laziness, praise over insults, and confidence over fear. But above all, honesty must inhabit the studio. Honesty within a positive context dispels many barriers to growth: wishful thinking, denial, defeatism, and excuse-making.
As a teacher, I strive to model success both in music and in life. For me, this means I try to inspire with artistry as well as wise choices. My own best teachers knew when to push, relent, speak, listen, challenge and move on. By setting boundaries, addressing shortfalls, imparting wisdom, cultivating discipline, and encouraging growth, I'm primarily concerned with transforming students into thriving, thinking, feeling, mature musicians capable of standing on their own. In reaching toward that ideal I’ve come to understand the importance of well-timed questions, mistakes and defeats (especially my own), and the unique point of view of every person that is worthy of full expression, unhindered by technical challenges. And in that regard, I work hard to liberate potential by equipping students with a sophisticated pallet of skills and tools that gives the most realization of their inner will to express and to share.
The most compelling music making comes from the heart. Skills and abilities are honed not for their own sake, but as the means to honest self-expression of the sort that ultimately makes the world a better place. Originality, creativity, and imagination are all key components in making music, and should be structurally involved in every musician’s pursuits, even from the very beginning of their studies. I feel strongly that the oboe should mimic the nuanced, expressive capabilities of the human voice. Listening therefore is of primary importance—to the great artists for inspiration, to colleagues for ensemble and context, and to oneself to inform growth and progress. Confident, thoughtful, intuitive, goal-oriented playing that achieves affective musical motion through a broad pallet of air speeds, colors, articulations, intensities, and dynamics is a worthy vision for every student. Good musical intuition is informed by careful study, perceptive listening, and purposeful reflection.
The technique of playing should be centered around and result in a way of production that achieves ease, fluidity, and fluency in support of musical expression. This means that finger movement should be economical, articulation should be ringing and ongoing, embouchure should be flexible and supportive, and response should be assured, easy, and of a character suitable to the music. The oboe should have a beautifully round sound with core, depth, range, ring, and color. The vibrato should be well integrated into the tone, deepening the sound with varied intensity as the music demands. To achieve this, the setup must somehow allow the mouth to be open and the jaws apart. Support, air focus, and deep breathing are critical to ease of playing and a beautiful tone. The reed must do its part. Namely, it must be up enough in pitch and gathered enough in tone to allow a deep voicing without being flat. Control over the extreme registers of the instruments should sound as easy and nuanced as everything else. Maintaining a daily warmup routine that promotes growth in these ways is crucial to unhindered musical expression.
Reed Making Philosophy
Reed making, in so much as it is possible, should be a scientific process that produces the consistency necessary for confident control and musical expression. In other words, the process must have objectively measurable tests, specifications, and tolerances. There is no reason that reed making need be a mysteriously unpredictable source of anxiety and frustration. Reeds should be stable in pitch and tonal core, while allowing for great flexibility of expression, color, dynamic range, and articulation. They should not fatigue the embouchure or the air support musculature. Reeds are not a one-size-fits-all sort of affair—they must suit the specific player, instrument, music, and acoustic. It is vital that students become predictably adept at making reeds so that dread, stress, and worry over having good reeds for performance and practice does not become a life-ruining prospect. All of that said however, students need to be flexible enough in production so that the inevitable less-than-perfect reed can be convincingly accommodated.