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Finding Your Inner Oboe Player

By Maryn Leister

When been a student for so long, sometimes it.s hard crossing that line into the professional world. Of course, we should keep learning no matter .what. we are, or things can get boring pretty fast.

But I remember having a hard time with this transition, and it wasn.t until my (brief) return to grad school that I felt I broke through the wall separating student and pro. You probably know that the line between those two categories often has nothing to do with level of playing, but attitude.

There are students that play amazingly better than some professionals, and there are students that are .pro. long before their time simply because they get paid to play. But, I think the difference is mainly in how you perceive yourself.

I had a wonderful time in college at Eastman, growing and learning and changing all of the time. With the help of my fabulous teacher, I was just starting to get a glimpse of myself (and not his carbon-copy) as an oboist.

I left school and it quickly became overwhelming. I had never been completely on my own before, and there I was in a brand-new city, supposedly a professional. But I really didn.t feel like one.

Reeds became a struggle again, and they hadn.t been for the last few years. Suddenly I was on my own and I realized I didn.t know what I stood for. I missed being at school terribly, and felt an insecurity that I was sure would go away if I just had someone to guide me again.

Well, somehow in the midst of that I managed to win a 2nd oboe job (Knoxville Symphony). It was a whirlwind year, living the life of a pro with an actual job. Still, I felt like I didn.t know myself yet as an oboist and I considered all kinds of things.

Ultimately, I ended up in grad school for just one semester at the Manhattan School of Music, and it was there that somehow I found myself. I.m sure you are thinking that it was the school itself, or the famed oboe teacher, Joseph Robinson. And I suppose it was, in a way, but not how I expected it to be.

I started to hear my playing as different and special (everybody.s is, I realize now!) and I found myself almost unconsciously trying to do the EXACT OPPOSITE of everything Robinson told me to do.

I am generally a very accommodating person, but I realized that I didn.t believe what he was saying, and I couldn.t pretend. It just wasn.t me, and it wasn.t until I felt something so WRONG that I realized what I had in me was right. Right for me, that is.

Absolutely everything I heard, oboe playing and otherwise was completely different than how I thought of it, or heard it in my mind.s ear. I know he was frustrated that I wouldn.t conform, but I just couldn.t.

IT was the first time in my oboe career that I had to reject someone.s teaching purely because it didn.t fit me, and I had the guts to do just that. I realized that the entire time I felt like I didn.t know myself, I was actually developing who I was.

And one day it was just there, and I could distinguish it from everything else.

So, if you are on this road, don.t be discouraged. Just keep trying to find the oboe player in you, and don.t conform because you are supposed to. Despite what we learn sometimes, there is NO right or wrong in music. It.s all about who you are, it.s just finding .YOU. that is the challenge.


Oboist and entrepreneur Maryn Leister helps beginner, intermediate and professional oboists become happier oboe players.

She is owner of the oboe learning company MKL Reeds and publisher of the Reed Report and Oboe Success Tips Newsletters. Each newsletter is full of straightforward tips on becoming a better oboe player and on taking control of your oboe reeds.

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