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What To Look For In A Private Teacher

Many students are confused when they start to play oboe or bassoon, and (I find) that the majority of them have switched to a double-reed instrument from clarinet, saxophone, or flute. All of a sudden, everything is new– and you have to start from scratch with everything, including finding a private instructor.

While many schools have specialists on staff for most of the woodwind and brass instruments, finding an oboe or bassoon teacher can be quite tricky. Here are some tips to help you find a good fit:

1. Be willing to drive a bit further.
While it is ideal to have a half-hour lesson every week, be willing to take an hour lesson every other week. Some places even offer a discount for longer lessons.

2. Find someone who provides high-quality handmade reeds.
A professional oboist or bassoonist will make their own reeds for themselves and their students, with very few exceptions (for instance, if you are fortunate enough to study with an oboist or bassoonist in a major symphony orchestra, they may not have the time to make reeds for their students. In such cases, the teacher will ALWAYS have recommendations for where to purchase high-quality handmade reeds). In some cases (especially if you live in an area with very few options for private music instruction), you may have to take lessons from someone whose primary instrument is not oboe or bassoon. This is ok as a last resort, but make sure you can find a good source for reeds. You will have very little success with reeds purchased from a music store. It is the nature of oboe and bassoon reeds to change frequently. An instructor who makes their own reeds can not only adjust yours as they change, but also teach you how to adjust your own.

3. Find someone whose primary instrument is oboe or bassoon.
If your instructor can’t play the instrument (or isn’t playing it in lessons with you), this is a big warning sign. The oboe and bassoon have many specific challenges that only a double-reed player can understand. If they aren’t consistently playing the instrument, they can’t offer you consistent instruction. In some cases, the best teacher might be a successful high school oboist or bassoonist in the area.

4. Find someone who is accessible.
Oboe and bassoon can be difficult. An instructor should be willing to provide you with their EMail address and (depending on the instructor), their home or cell phone number– but be considerate. If you’ve dropped your oboe at midnight and broken your only good reed (and don’t have a backup), don’t expect them to be too compassionate. On the other hand, if a true emergency occurs, it is nice to know that you have some professional advice just a phone call (or e-mail) away.

5. Check your references
Don’t be afraid to ask for references, resumes, and credentials. A true professional will have these on hand and are happy to provide them.

6. Find someone who plays professionally.
If your instructor is playing oboe or bassoon in chamber groups, orchestras, and other organizations, it’s a good sign. This may mean that their schedule might not be as flexible as yours, so be willing to work around their obligations if necessary.

Any questions? Or need help finding a teacher? Feel free to contact us with any questions!